Liz Dee - the Lancashire raising thousands of pounds for meningitis charities
PUBLISHED: 12:32 02 March 2018
An inspirational mum from St Annes has raised tens of thousands of pounds since the sudden death of her young son, as Paul Mackenzie reports.
It should have been a day of fun and laughter with friends and family. The Dee family were putting up their Christmas tree and celebrating dad Justin’s birthday but just hours later, 10-year-old Edward was being rushed to hospital where he died of meningitis.
In the months since his death, mum Liz has spearheaded a remarkable fundraising campaign which has so far raised more than £70,000 for the charity Meningitis Now. And now she is hoping to do even more to raise money and awareness of the devastating disease which tore her family apart.
‘I would love to set up a charitable cause in Edward’s name,’ she said. ‘But I have not got the resources or the energy to do all that as well as everything else. I want to carry on raising money for Meningitis Now but I also want to do things locally for Edward and I’m going to struggle with the time and resources I have.
‘It’s not just about fundraising for meningitis, it’s not just about raising awareness, it feels like a whole lot more. It feels like a community coming together. It feels like people wanting to do something for Edward. The charity is benefitting massively but my passion and my drive as his mum, is to do things for Edward.
‘I would love to spend all my time doing things, even more than I am now, but I would need to look for help and support. If we can raise all this money with no support, what can we do with support, if we have more time and more resources?’
Fundraising events began within days of Edward’s death, when friends, family and classmates from Clifton Primary School took part in a two-mile walk and handed out meningitis information leaflets. Since then, fundraising events have been held regularly – the Edward Dee Forever Fund was chosen charity of this year’s annual Lions’ Swimarathon at St Annes in January – and orange Meningitis Now collection tins are a familiar sight in shops in the area.
‘I knew Edward knew a lot of people but I had no idea just how many,’ Liz added. ‘He did everything, he was always first in line to volunteer for anything he could get his hands on, sport especially. He would worry about the consequences later and he had such an infectious nature.
‘That spirit has been captured by the community, people have been inspired to not take life for granted and to live life to the full and challenge themselves. It has struck me how many people have done things out of their comfort zone and many of them have said they could imagine Edward encouraging them and keeping them going. That’s the sort of kid he was, he would never give up on things. Even people who didn’t know him have taken that idea and the characteristic of his and every step of the way, people say ‘we are doing this for Edward’.
‘This is all still about Edward. There are positives for Meningitis Now but the community drive is for Edward himself and that’s what I would like to carry on with.’
In recognition of their remarkable fundraising and awareness raising efforts, Liz and Justin were presented with Heroes in the Community awards at a ceremony in Blackpool last year.
In the living room of the family home in St Annes, Liz tearfully recalls the events of that weekend in early December 2016. ‘It all happened incredibly quickly,’ she said. ‘It was Justin’s birthday weekend and we’d had a day trip to Ingleton and the White Scar caves on the Saturday.
‘My youngest son Oliver felt ill when we were out, he was sick at lunchtime and we got him checked at the walk-in centre on our way home. They sent him home and although he was poorly that night, he got up the next morning as right as rain. I thought no more about it, he was fine and it was like it had never happened. On Justin’s birthday we put the Christmas tree up and Edward played on the Playstation in the morning.
‘We had some family round for some lunch and Edward said he felt a bit sick so he didn’t think he’d have any lunch. I thought nothing of it because it was just like Oliver had been the previous day. He was a bit washed out but it was nothing untoward. He was lolling on the settee under a blanket and watched some tv. He was a bit sick but everything that was happening was a mirror of what had happened the day before. It seemed like it was just a bug.
‘He shouted in the night a couple of times when he’d been sick and he was in a bit of a mess but he had a wash and went back to bed. Then he shouted that he needed to go the toilet but couldn’t get out of bed. He seemed a bit groggy and Justin had to lift him down from bed.
‘He was a bit floppy and confused and we didn’t like it so I went to call a doctor. By the time I came back upstairs with the phone Edward couldn’t stand up so I phoned for an ambulance.
‘The deterioration was so rapid. He couldn’t hold his head, he was trying to catch his breath. I’d never seen anything like it. The ambulance was here within a few minutes and straight away they must have suspected something along the lines of meningitis. They pumped him full of antibiotics, the bedroom floor was littered with antibiotic pouches. They put him on oxygen and had to chair him downstairs. They were working on him for 15 minutes in the ambulance before they could leave for the hospital because things were shutting down.
‘When they arrived at hospital they gave him a lumbar puncture straight away but they couldn’t save him. Everything was shutting down. I could see it on the monitor. They tried CPR and I saw him take a breath and thought he would be all right because he’s a fighter but they couldn’t do anything. It was that fast. Within two or three hours, he was dead.’
Meningitis Now’s Director of Fundraising, Beth Bottrill, said: ‘We’d like to say a huge thank you to Liz and her family and everyone in the Lytham area who has contributed to this special fund she set up in Edward’s memory on raising so much money and awareness. It’s a real testament to her hard work and dedication and the esteem in which Edward was held within the community.
‘The money raised is making a significant contribution to our ongoing lifesaving and life-changing work – funding research to find new and better vaccines for this cruel disease, raising awareness and improving the quality of life for those who have been affected and their families.
‘As a charity that receives no Government funding we rely entirely on the generosity, energy and initiative of our supporters to raise the vital funds we need. Thanks to the family’s determination and hard work we will be able to reach even more people and make a bigger impact on this devastating disease.’
And Liz, who works part time in Booths, added: ‘The minute we knew something was not right we were on the phone, but you do wonder if you could have done more or acted differently.
‘People have asked me since how you know if it is meningitis and you just don’t. I feel I have achieved something if I have put meningitis on people’s radar. If I have made parents question something or if it’s given people that moments doubt that might save somebody. It wasn’t on my radar.
‘Edward was so fit and so healthy. This could have happened to anyone of us but if we have made people realise that the disease is out there, that’s all I am trying to do.
‘Every day is hard. People assume it’ll be the anniversaries that are difficult but it’s every day. Just normal things like putting tea on the table and he’s not there.
‘It’s incredibly obvious that’s he’s not here. A lot of the noise has gone from the house. When I wake up he’s in my mind and he’s in my mind every minute until I go to sleep. As his mum I need to keep that memory because that’s all I have got, the memories.’ w
To donate, or find out more about the campaign, go to facebook.com/TheEdwardDeeForeverFundForMeningitisNow.
For more information about Meningitis Now, go to meningitisnow.org