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Last night’s episode of Channel 4 show, The Secret Millionaire, saw Property Developer and multi-millionaire Matthew Newbury meet meningitis sufferer Alex Williams and his family and learn all about the difficulties they face coping with the life-changing after-effects of the disease.
Alex, now 18 years old, contracted bacterial meningitis aged seven. He became ill on his mother’s wedding day; the disease struck fast and Alex spent one month in a coma on a life support machine. He was left with severe after-effects, including memory loss, deafness in both ears and bilateral footdrop, which means he most probably will never walk again.
Alex has since adapted to life as a wheelchair user. He has taken on new challenges, and although he misses playing football, he has replaced this with wheelchair basketball and coaches a disabled dance class. He himself is also a Young Ambassador for the Meningitis Trust; raising awareness of the disease, its after-effects and the work that the charity does. Alex’s achievements in overcoming his disabilities and helping others have been widely recognised and he has won two national awards; the News of the World’s Children Champion and a BBC Radio One Teen Award.
Since filming the show, and through Alex’s close connection with the Meningitis Trust, Matthew has joined the team of Ambassadors; helping to increase the profile of the charity and open doors to help it grow and help more people like Alex and his family.
Sue Davie, Chief Executive at the Meningitis Trust, said: “We are delighted to welcome Matthew on-board as an Ambassador for the Meningitis Trust. We know that he will make a big difference to our work as he is so keen to help others and his relationship with Alex and his family has bonded him to the cause. Alex is a very special person to us at the Trust as we have watched him grow over the last ten years – adapting to the impact that the disease has had on his life over the years. He’s an extremely brave and courageous young man who is an inspiration to everyone, particularly to the many youngsters who survive the disease and wonder what the future holds for them. ”
Matthew Newbury is no stranger to disability. As a result of a serious road traffic accident, he lost a limb and was fitted with a groundbreaking bionic leg. Matthew, a qualified pilot who runs his own property business, Newbury Developments, and has interests in several other companies, was featured in the 2012 Sunday Times Rich List having amassed a £9m fortune over the last few years. He was bowled over by Alex’s positive attitude and cheerful approach to life and, as a result, the show saw him offer to convert part of Alex’s house in line with his needs. Since the show was filmed, Matthew has spent the majority of his time in Manchester and what started as a medium size conversion of part of Alex’s home, turned into the almost total re-build and renovation of the house, which is now finished!
Matthew said: “Alex is a fantastic person; a role model for all youngsters, not just those with a disability. It truly is my pleasure to have helped transform his home. I was also so inspired by Alex’s love and respect for the Trust that I felt compelled to get involved - I am absolutely delighted to have taken on a more involved role with the charity.
The programme has shown that disability is no barrier to success; both Alex and Matthew lead lives that challenge and provide people with inspiration to achieve in their chosen field. Life can be really positive after meningitis.
Alex says: “There is no way I’m going to let anyone go through what I did and feel it’s the end… it’s only the beginning, believe me”
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