Mums tackle Great North Run to raise awareness of meningitis

Team of six will take on 13.1 mile challenge in effort to make people aware disease is more than just a rash

L-R Susan Johnson, Rachel Gibson, Lisa Stevenson, Samantha Hudson and Joanne Marshall
L-R Susan Johnson, Rachel Gibson, Lisa Stevenson, Samantha Hudson and Joanne Marshall

Meningitis sufferers’ mums are to tackle the Great North Run to try and raise awareness that symptoms of the illness can be more than just a rash.

Sue Johnson and Joanne Marshall both saw their sons hospitalised with the potentially deadly disease, and now they’re set to lead a team in support of the Meningitis Research Foundation.

“We just want to raise awareness of it and if we raise any money as well then so much the better,” said Sue, 39, from Sunniside, in Gateshead.

“The perception of meningitis is that it’s something that people come down with as a baby, but my son Billy is a big, strapping lad and he came down with it last November.

“He just had what seemed like a cold and a pain in his hip joint - pneumococcal meningitis was the last thing you would think of.

“Within hours the pain was so bad we called an ambulance.

“He spent three weeks in hospital, and had to take antibiotics for weeks afterwards to treat infection of the hip bone.

“Everything is back to normal and he’s had no lasting side effects of any kind, which is amazing when you read the horror stories about the children who get it.

“But I’d say don’t be frightened to go to hospital and get checked out - if we had left it, it could have been a very different story.”

Sue has completed the Great North Run five times, while for the rest of the group - also including local ladies Lisa Stevenson, 38, Rachel Gibson, 38, and Stacie O’Brien, 25 - this is their first attempt at a half marathon, which this September 7 will become the first mass participation race to reach 1m finishers.

“We are so glad the treatment was available to save our sons, and we would like to raise money for MRF as this is one of the only ways we can think to show our appreciation,” said Joanne, 34, whose son Jordan contracted meningitis when he was just five months old, in 2000.

“Jordan saw five doctors in three days, who all said he had a viral infection,” she said.

“On the third day, he started foaming at the mouth and fitting, which took over 40 minutes to stop.

“Tests confirmed that it was meningitis, and he was in hospital for two weeks.

“Afterwards, he like a newborn baby again, having to learn to sit up and roll over, but thankfully he is now fit and well.”

Christopher Head, chief executive at the Meningitis Research Foundation thanked the women for their support.

“We are extremely grateful to Susan, Joanne and the team for running the Great North Run in September on our behalf.

“As they are aware meningitis and septicaemia are deadly diseases which can strike without warning and need to be treated immediately.

“We rely on voluntary donations to fund our vital work into the prevention, detection and treatment of the diseases and support those affected, so every penny they raise by running in this race will make a huge difference to the charity.”

For information on the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia call the freephone helpline on 080 8800 3344 or visit www.meningitis.org .

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