MBE for Burnley charity champion

Elaine Dowell who has been awarded an MBE for setting up the Encephalitis Society (s)
Elaine Dowell who has been awarded an MBE for setting up the Encephalitis Society (s)
Share this article

A Burnley woman who has devoted her life to setting up and running a charity for people with brain condition encephalitis after her son was diagnosed with the illness has been recognised by the Queen.

Elaine Dowell received an MBE for founding the Encephalitis Society and for charitable services to people with encephalitis and their families, in the New Year’s Honours.

The former dietician gave up her NHS career to care for her son Andrew, who is now 28. He was diagnosed with encephalitis, which is a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain caused by a viral infection, at the age of seven. The virus had damaged nerve cells in his brain which caused his speech and behaviour to deteriorate.

With support for families affected by the condition lacking, Elaine set up the Encephalitis Society.

Since then the organisation has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds and has a resource centre in North Yorkshire where Elaine lives.

Elaine (64), who was also selected to carry the Olympic torch, was brought up in Coal Clough Lane and attended the former Myrtle Bank and Hargher Clough primary schools before moving on to Burnley Girls’ High School. She then went to Leeds Polytechnic where she met her husband Keith, an accountant, who helped her to set up the charity.

Elaine, whose mother Mrs Edna Davies lives in Laburnum Close, said: “Now no-one needed to be in the situation I was in 20 years ago – those signposts are all in place.”

Andrew, who is a talented artist despite not being able to speak, is now living in an adult community in Scotland.

Elaine added: “My ‘baby’ had now grown into an adult and it was time to let it loose.

“In 2011 I stepped down from management and now I am retiring. Shortly after my son was ill, a friend said that some good always came out of every bad situation.

“At the time I couldn’t think how anything good could come from this devastating illness. It is still a devastating illness, a dark place, but now there is a light. I may have switched it on, but it’s up to others to keep it shining.”