Meningitis victim plants prize-winner

A MENINGITIS sufferer has come through to help Branscombe school children become prize-winning beetroot growers.

Peter Lovell, from Salcombe Regis, has been left deaf by the condition, which hit him in 2008. He has a cochlear implant, but finds it tough to tell what people are saying. “I can understand about 10 per cent of what people say,” he said. “It’s like listening to an out of tune radio.”

Mr Lovell, 44, and his wife Judi, 40, took up the school’s plea for help with its allotment, cultivating the vegetable that gained the heaviest beetroot prize at Sidmouth Rotary Club’s school gardening competition. “I’m glad we won something,” he said. “It gives the kids an incentive when they know they can win.”

An engineer by trade, he had been feeling ill for a couple of days, but never thought it could be meningitis. Mrs Lovell explained: “He said he felt sick, so I took him to the toilet to be sick and he just collapsed. This happened at 12.30pm, by 1pm we were in ICU. It really does happen so quickly.”

Mr Lovell went into a coma and can’t remember anything about his time in hospital. He has had to learn to walk and talk again. Helping at the school, where the couple’s youngest daughter, Nicole, five, is a pupil, is part of his plan to get life back to as normal as possible. He is setting up a robotics club for young technology fans. Mrs Lovell already runs a netball club.

He can’t stand up for long periods of time, so, from a safety point of view, he had to give up work at Metal Developments in Cullompton. He said: “I was upset that I had to leave. They sent me a wonderful letter saying don’t worry about the job, just come back when you’re ready.”

The couple raise funds for the Meningitis Trust, which helps patients during aftercare, and have supported the Meningitis Research Foundation.

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“You don’t get a rash with some cases, which is important for people to know,” said Mrs Lovell, whose linen business is taking a back seat while she looks after her husband. “It’s like flu, Peter had a headache and felt sick. I’d only said to somebody earlier that day ‘he’s at home with man flu’.”