Our top ten New Zealanders: Perry Bisman

* Perry Bisman, Extraordinary father

Perry Bisman was able to turn the trauma of his baby daughter's tragic illness into becoming a passionate advocate for the meningococcal vaccination programme.

No one can forget the heartbreaking story of Charlotte. At seven months she contracted meningococcal disease and ended up in the Starship Children's Hospital. While she was in hospital, her little body blistered, swollen and blackened from a ghastly disease which wreaks its havoc with frightening speed, Bisman had the strength to urge New Zealanders to take up the vaccinations, even though they were released just too late for his own daughter.

The Waiheke Islander allowed his and partner (Charlotte's mother) Pam Cleverly's private diary from their hospital vigil to be used by the Herald to make other parents aware of how quickly the disease could strike and with such severe consequences. The pain their child was in was sometimes "more than we can bear", they wrote.

Little Charlotte is home on Waiheke now and parts of her limbs have been amputated. Even so, her parents are able to celebrate her enjoyment of life.

"She's healthy and happy, and every day she is smiling we are happy," Bisman recently told the Herald. "She's obviously got a lot of inner strength and the will to get on with it."

She may get some of that inner strength from her father, who is still urging parents to get their children vaccinated.

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