This year not only sees the 70th anniversary of the NHS, but also the 70th birthday of Meningitis Now founder Steve Dayman.
This joint celebration seems fitting, as just like the NHS, Steve has been working tirelessly for years to protect the future health of children throughout the UK.
Steve was instrumental in launching what is now known as Meningitis Now 36 years ago. The charity has funded research into the development of vaccines, and campaigned for them to be added to NHS vaccination programmes.
Recalling the day 14-month-old Spencer became ill Steve said: “He was not his usual self when he awoke from his midday sleep, he was lying still and, although awake, he could not lift himself into a standing position.”
Steve and his wife Gloria, also noticed ‘a small 'pin prick' rash on his stomach’, and took him to hospital on the advice of a doctor. During the hours that followed, Spencer’s heart stopped, and although doctors managed to get it beating again, his fight for life had only just begun. Tragically, just 24 hours after being admitted to hospital, Spencer’s little body was overwhelmed by meningococcal septicaemia, and he sadly passed away.
Through his personal tragedy, Steve somehow found the strength and courage to decide that he didn’t want another family to have to suffer like he had, and alongside his wife Gloria formed the first meningitis group in the UK, raising funds for research.
Joining with another local support group (formed after the meningitis outbreak in Gloucestershire), ‘The Meningitis Trust’ was formed in 1986, and registered as the first meningitis charity in the UK. From this humble beginning, the charity has grown from strength to strength, and made a real impact along the way – thanks to Steve’s dedication.
Notable moments include the introduction of five vaccines to NHS immunisation programmes, which have provided protection to millions of children in the UK. Steve has always had a hands-on approach to the work of the charity, offering personal visits to bereaved families throughout the UK. Nowhere is too far or remote for Steve to visit – if a family would like a visit from him, he will be there.
These visits form part of the personalised support offered by Meningitis Now, and having the opportunity to talk to Steve – someone who can empathise with parents and families after losing a loved one to meningitis - can be a really valuable step in the bereavement and recovery process.
Steve was given an MBE in 2010 for his services to healthcare. On receiving the award Steve said: “It’s a great honour to be recognised by your country. The progress that’s been made in the fight against meningitis has saved many lives and this wouldn’t have been achieved without the support of thousands of families across the country who have also been affected by this devastating disease."
Steve is still fighting to stop more lives being devastated by meningitis, and is positive about the future of the disease saying: “I’m really convinced that in the next thirty years, bacterial meningitis will be confined to the textbooks.”
Congratulations to both the NHS and Steve on their achievements, and making a real difference to the lives of so many people.