Ollie helps to fight disease which took his brother

(L-R) James Matthews, David Simpson, Catherine McAuley, Lana Wells, and Ollie Wells
(L-R) James Matthews, David Simpson, Catherine McAuley, Lana Wells, and Ollie Wells

Little Ollie Wells from Donacloney was just months old when his big brother Leo lost his battle with Meningitis.

And it was in memory of his brother and to help save others that Ollie took part in a Teddy bear awareness campaign to lobby for implementation of a new lifesaving vaccine.

Standing alongside his mum Lana, Upper Bann MP David Simpson, MLA Joanne Dobson, and Kathryn McAuley of the Meningitis Research Foundation, Ollie with the help of local school children held 42 brown teddy bears to represent the 42 people in Northern Ireland who survived bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in 2013.

On average one in 10 die from this disease and they were represented by white bears.

The emotive campaign, which started on Tuesday March 11 at Craigavon Area Hospital, highlighted the devastation caused by meningitis in an attempt to persuade the Government to put children’s lives before cost and make the Men B vaccine available free on the NHS.

It has so far not been used due to uncertainties about its cost effectiveness, however this decision is currently under review with an announcement expected later this month.

“This horrific disease has devastated our family,” said Lana who lost her son Leo aged just two years and five months.

“Meningitis Research Foundation encouraged us to support the teddy bear roadshow to make people more aware of this ruthless disease. We can’t get Leo back, but we can help save other children.”

Commenting after helping to organise the event, David Simpson said: “I want to thank all of the local school children who attended to show their support for a vaccine that could potentially save their life or one of their friends.

“The Wells family have shown such courage and raised tens of thousands of pounds to raise awareness of Meningitis in order to help other families recognise the signs and symptoms. It is now up to the Health Secretary to act immediately and protect babies and children.”

Jo-Anne Dobson who has been fighting alongside Lana since 2011 to raise awareness about the treatment of meningitis said: “Lana is a credit to all those who have been affected by Meningitis and who wish to see progress made in the research into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

“The decision last August not to bring the vital MenB vaccine into the childhood immunisation programme was a bitter blow to those of us lobbying for this lifesaving vaccine”.

The roadshow will visit various venues during March.