A young woman who suddenly lost her ‘incredible best friend’ to meningitis braved a broken toe to raise over £1,000 running her first ever race.
Ellie Winter, of Christchurch, lost 19-year-old ‘genuine, hilarious and intelligent’ Lauren Downey to meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) in February.
Music and book-loving Lauren, of Sopley, was rushed to hospital after falling ill, but sadly died overnight after exhibiting no meningitis symptoms.
The popular former Bournemouth School for Girls student looked promising studying history at University College London after achieving two A*s and an A in her A levels.
Ellie, 20, said: “Lauren was the most incredible person I’ve ever come across.
“She was the most intelligent by far – she could’ve done anything and was hugely capable.
“Lauren was a force to be reckoned with, and a beautiful person physically and mentally.
“It’s a miracle for me to have known her for the short time that I did.”
Nothing could be done by the time Ellie got to hospital.
The duo, who had been best friends for years, moved to London and planned their lives around each other.
Ellie signed up for the 10km Bupa London 10,000 a month before the race.
Despite a broken toe, she persevered and finished in around one-hour and 15 minutes on 25 May.
Ellie said: “The symptoms are barely recognisable and there needs to be more awareness.
“Meningitis Now is brilliant and helps many people through bereavement and survivors coping with life-changing after-effects.
“Although it was my first race and my toe was painful, I ran to give something back and to help families living with the shock of this powerful disease.”
Ellie presented the money to Meningitis Now founder Steve Dayman at a ceremony at Arcado Lounge, Christchurch, on Monday, 6 July.
Mr Dayman MBE, who launched the UK’s meningitis movement after losing his baby Spencer to the disease in 1982, added: “What happened to Lauren sadly shows how fast meningitis can strike, often without warning and many signals.
“We thank Ellie for enduring the run to remember Lauren.
“Every penny raised helps us fund pioneering preventative research, raise awareness and support people affected.”
To donate to Ellie’s fund, visit https://www.justgiving.com/Ellie-Winter.
For more information on the disease, visit www.MeningitisNow.org.