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Wirral man swims equivalent of English Channel for meningitis charity
A WIRRAL man who recovered from meningitis swam the equivalent of the English Channel to raise funds for Meningitis UK.
Michael Smethurst, 58, swam 1,354 lengths, which equates to 21 miles, during 12 sessions at the Europa Swimming Pool in Birkenhead.
Michael, from Lower Heswall, survived meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia in February 2009, and wanted to do something to help those who sadly lose limbs, their hearing or worse to the disease.
His swim raised more than £4,350, of which £2,500 was donated by his employer TK Maxx.
Michael said: “It was absolutely amazing to finish the challenge and raise so much money to help Meningitis UK find a vaccine to rid the world of meningitis.
“It was so tiring, but so worth it.
“Doing the swim helped me psychologically in the recovery process as it was something positive to help those less fortunate, those who lose a limb or their hearing, or even worse.
“I feel so lucky to survive meningitis when I was in such a bad way and I thank Arrowe Park Hospital for saving my life.
“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.”
Michael thought he merely had the flu and took himself to bed after work, but he became progressively worse.
His wife Jacqueline returned home to find him incoherent, unable to carry his own weight and he fell and broke his wrist.
The ambulance crew rang ahead from Michael’s home to Arrowe Park Hospital and asked for a specialist team to be ready to receive him after noticing the septicaemic rash on his arms.
Michael’s wife and their three daughters, Anna, Jenny and Lucy, stood at his bedside for a week praying for him to recover while he fought the disease.
Humbled by the whole experience, three years later, Michael took the plunge to raise money so Meningitis UK can continue to fund its pioneering vaccine research.
The avid aqua fan waved a French flag to signal the end of his distance challenge.
He managed to cover more than a mile per session and was delighted to finish. He also swam two lengths in memory of his uncle Leslie Sakne, a swimming instructor, who taught him how to swim.
Leslie sadly passed away about six years ago.
Meningitis UK founder, Steve Dayman, who launched the charity after losing his 14-month-old son Spencer to meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia in 1982, said: “We are extremely grateful to Michael for being so determined to complete his challenge and raise vital funds to help fund our vaccine research to wipe out the awful disease.
“Swimming the equivalent of the width of the English Channel is no mean feat and we are glad it went so well for him.
“What happened to Michael highlights the terrifying speed at which the disease can strike and how it is often mistaken for the flu or common cold.”