Keith draws on family history to help others

Keith Newman.

Keith Newman.

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AN Ulgham man has been named as a regional ambassador for the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) during its Meningitis Awareness Week.

Keith Newman is among those who have been asked to take on this new voluntary role because they have the knowledge and skills to represent the organisation at a local level.

They are also active members of the charity and have personal experience of the diseases, which affect around 3,600 people in the UK and Ireland each year.

Meningitis and septicaemia can strike anyone without warning, killing about one in 10 and leaving a quarter of survivors with life-altering effects from deafness and brain damage to loss of limbs. The awareness week runs until Sunday.

Mr Newman said: “Our family have had three cases of meningitis to deal with in the past.

“My daughter Amy, now 20, contracted it in 1994 when she was just three years old, my son James (13) also developed the disease in 1999 when he was just three months old and my niece Daisy was also affected when she was small.

“We have been lucky not to lose anyone but I know from experience others who have and that has made me determined to help others as best as I can. I am honoured to be asked to represent this important charity and at such a special time.

“Meningitis Awareness Week is the main time of the year to spread the word about the symptoms and to raise money so MRF can continue to fund research and support people affected by the diseases.”

MRF’s research project Counting the Cost of Meningitis estimated the life-long costs to the Government of someone seriously disabled by the disease to be around £3million.

An 18,000-strong petition was recently presented to Number 10 Downing Street calling on the Government to pursue the widest and earliest implementation on vaccines to cover all strain of the diseases.

The charity’s Chief Executive, Chris Head, said: “Keith brings many qualities to this role and we are delighted he has agreed to represent the work we do in Morpeth and its surrounding areas.

“We now have 38 ambassadors in the UK and Wales and they have been set up to meet the specific needs of their local communities – this ranges from speaking to the local media about our latest campaigns to giving talks in nurseries, schools and colleges across the region.

“They can also offer tips and resources for local people who want to get involved in fund-raising for us, as well as organising, participating in and assisting with events.”

To find out more about the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia, visit www.meningitis.org or download the iPhone App from www.bit.ly/MRFapp