A WIRRAL dad who survived meningitis is taking on a mammoth swimming challenge to raise cash for the cause.

Michael Smethurst, from Heswall, wants to swim the equivalent of the width of the English Channel to boost funds for Meningitis UK.

The 58-year-old expects to complete the 21-mile task over the next few weeks at Euopa Swimming Pool, Birkenhead and needs Globe readers’ support.

He is hoping his story will help to raise awareness of the virus which he battled in February 2009 Michael said: “I thought I had a really bad case of flu so had taken myself off to bed after work one afternoon. But my symptoms got much worse and I was completely incoherent and delirious at one point. My wife, Jackie, rang for an ambulance and I was taken straight to hospital where I stayed for more than a week.

“My family went through hell while I was in hospital. It was only recently that I learned just what a worrying time it was for them.

“Now I know more about the disease and how many people it can kill and limb loss it can cause, I appreciate just how lucky I am to be here. I look at life differently now and don’t let things worry me so much.

“Doing this swim will help me psychologically in the recovery process as I will be doing something positive to help vaccine research to save others.”

Jackie and the couple’s three daughters, Anna, 29, Jenny, 28 and Lucy, 26, stood at his bedside for a week praying for him to recover while he fought the disease.

In order to complete his challenge, Michael needs to swim 1,352 lengths of the training pool at Europa but he is confident he will reach his goal He added: “People often associate meningitis with children and think they notice it instantly. But that is not always the case and people should know what to look out for.

“I don’t care how long it takes me, I will see this swim through to the end and I am so grateful for the tremendous support of my family, friends and colleagues and Europa Pool who have been so accommodating.”

Meningitis UK chief executive, Kate Rowland said: “We are extremely grateful to Michael for his support and for being so determined to take on this challenge and raise vital funds to help the scientists we fund to continue their ground breaking vaccine research.

“Swimming the equivalent of the width of the English Channel is no mean feat at all and we all wish him the best of luck taking on this challenge.

“What happened to Michael highlights the terrifying speed which the disease can strike and often with symptoms which are notoriously difficult to detect, which is why we are focused on stamping out this cruel disease.”

To request a free symptoms fridge magnet or to find out more about Meningitis UK’s Search 4 A Vaccine campaign, visit www.meningitisuk.org To sponsor Michael, visit www.justgiving.com/Michael-Smethurst