Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

‘I’m just an ordinary bloke’: Man recalls son as he continues meningitis fight

Steve and Gloria Dayman (handout/PA)
Steve and Gloria Dayman (handout/PA)

A father who has devoted his life to fighting meningitis has described himself as “just an ordinary bloke” as he marks the 40th anniversary of his son’s death.

Steve Dayman and his wife Gloria saw son Spencer die of meningitis in 1982 when he was 14 months old, prompting them to set up a support group for other parents.

This grew into the charity Meningitis Now, which has spearheaded vaccine research and fought for babies to get meningitis vaccines on the NHS.

Mr Dayman is launching the charity’s new campaign – Spencer’s Legacy: Nobody Left Behind – to raise £300,000 to fund research into vaccines and provide a postgraduate student placement at the Spencer Dayman Research Laboratories at the University of Bristol.

Recalling the death of his son on November 2 1982, Mr Dayman, 74, told the PA news agency: “Spencer had been out for his morning walk in his pushchair and had his midday nap.

“Normally when he woke up from his lunchtime nap he’d be jumping up and down in his cot, shaking the bars as if to say ‘get me out of here’.

“But he couldn’t raise himself off the pillow. We called the doctor and they said, ‘well give him some Calpol and see how he goes’, so we did that.

“A few hours later, about five o’clock in the afternoon, the doctor came and said, ‘I think you should take him into hospital as a precaution’.

Spencer's christening
Steve and Gloria Dayman with their son Spencer on his christening day (Handout/PA)

“We got to the hospital about six o’clock. Within 24 hours, Spencer was completely overwhelmed by meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia, and he died from the disease.”

Mr Dayman, from Bristol, witnessed his son’s death with wife Gloria, 74, by his side.

He said the couple were “heartbroken and consumed by shock and emptiness”, adding: “I held Spencer – the devastation and void is something I’ll never forget. His death completely changed my life.

“In those days there weren’t any organisations, no leaflets, nothing about the disease.”

The couple started fundraising locally with family and friends, then started to connect with other families as meningitis cases rose in other parts of the UK.

“That became a support group, and then the charity was set up in 1986,” said Mr Dayman, who was made an MBE in 2010. It was the start of the UK’s meningitis movement.

Having spent 40 years dedicated to meningitis awareness and research, Mr Dayman says he is determined to continue the fight for other families.

He told PA: “Losing a child is something you never get over but, obviously, as time goes by, for most of us, we find the strength to carry on.

“For me, I was determined to raise awareness – for it to be recognised as a disease of national importance.

“We didn’t know any other families that had experienced bacterial meningitis.

“There was a vacuum there that needed to be addressed and we set off on our journey.

“We were told we couldn’t expect to see vaccines in our lifetime.”

Having personally raised more than £2 million through charity walks alone, Mr Dayman is determined to keep raising money in Spencer’s honour and would love to a see a universal meningitis vaccine.

He said: “The vaccines we have at the moment don’t cover all strains, even the Men B vaccine, it protects against about 80% of group B.

“With pneumococcal, it’s a lot more difficult as there are so many strains.

“We need to improve the vaccines we have but, ultimately, if we could have a single vaccine for all strains of bacterial meningitis, that would make it more cost-effective.

“Men B is only offered to newborn babies, so those currently up to age seven are protected but lots of youngsters are unprotected unless their parents have paid for it.

“If we can give these vaccines in infancy, that could give good protection for many years and it’s the best way to make it cost-effective.”

The Spencer’s Legacy campaign will appeal to individuals and families, as well as companies, corporate sponsors and grant-making organisations.

Mr Dayamn added: “Spencer was our fourth child. We had three older ones and we had two other boys after we lost Spencer.

“Obviously they didn’t replace him but they have brought a lot of happiness into our life.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in