The MRFC began with a mother’s grief over the loss of
her son to meningitis. Michael Longo wasn’t feeling well on Friday. Four
days later, he died. When Kathryn Blain walked away from the hospital in
Toronto after his death she wanted to know why… why Michael had died,
why so much medical attention could do so little, why meningitis couldn’t
be stopped, how it could be prevented… and no one could answer her
questions. In trying to understand what this insidious disease was that had
taken her precious son, Kathryn soon realized that there was very little
information available. She felt there was no support, no one to give her
the help and information she wanted and needed. She understood what was
lacking for families affected by meningitis.
Two years later, during an outbreak of meningitis in Kitchener/Waterloo, where Kathryn lived and Michael had gone to school, reporters called for her perspective. It was now the right time for Kathryn to begin putting together the infrastructure of what was to become the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada. It also helped put her in touch with people who had experienced meningitis in their own lives. Kathryn started making telephone calls to people who saw the need for a national organization and an executive core soon started to come together at breakfast meetings in Kathryn’s kitchen. Michael Redfearn had taught Michael and produced a video of his high school experience that played during a memorial service for Michael. Dr Ronald Gold had just retired from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto as Chief of Infectious Disease. He had also directed successful field trials of meningococcal vaccine at Walter Reed Institute of Research… Jeff Hutcheson reported news on a local radio station. This was the founding core of the organization and, in the time since, some people have moved away, others have joined, and meningitis has received more of the attention it deserves. The Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada has become an advocate for research and vaccination, a source of information, a focus for donation and funding, and a support for people who have experienced meningitis in their own lives.