Meningitis in your words

Charlie Giles-Impiazzi's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Toddler 1-3
  • Relationship: Other relative
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Charlie Giles-Impiazzi

That time again. 7am the alarm is going off again and again and I am running late. Laureen my sister (Charlie's mother) is holding Charlie in the hallway with my mum and says: "ah Shonagh he isn't well again, he's really hot".

I gave Chopper a cuddle and he was so tired and boiling hot just resting his head on my shoulder. I said to my sister to get him a doctor's appointment if he didn't seem any better in a while, just thinking it was the usual sickness bug, perhaps gastroenteritis as he had had that in the past, or even the symptoms from having his MMR vaccine eight days previously.  

Charlie went for his breakfast, which he didn't seem to interested in. I gave him a big hug as usual and said "hope you feel better soon Chopper".

I got to work and tried to phone my sister at about 12pm to see how Charlie was but there was no answer. This certainly wasn't unusual but I do remember hoping everything was ok.

"Thursday 18th May 2006 was about to change my life in a very bad way."

I put my phone back, realising the battery had just died, thinking to myself: "oh well, I'll just call as soon as I get it charged", as it was about 1pm and my shift finished at 3pm. 

I then was told there was a phone call for me, and I thought this strange as I don't really get calls at work. But things still didn't click until I heard the Scottish voice on the other end, realising it was my sister's boss, and straight away I knew there was something wrong with Charlie. Thursday 18th May 2006 was about to change my life in a very bad way. I started to shake and got quite nervous to say the least; she was asking if I was OK and that I needed to be strong and listen to her. She said Charlie has been taken to the Royal Surrey hospital, at which point I started to cry and panic. She said my family were already there and she had been trying to get hold of me for a little while now, and they were in the family room near A&E. I asked what they thought was wrong and she said it was suspected meningitis.

I remember crouching to my knees and crying so loudly - although knowing it was inappropriate behaviour whilst at work - I couldn't stop crying so I asked someone to take me to get my car and bag and also my phone charger, which to this day I still wish I had taken to work with me.  When I phoned my mum to see what was happening, she said to get there as soon as I could, so I left straight away.

I jumped in my car promising not to drive fast and just drove to the hospital not knowing at all what to expect but being a realistic person thinking of all sorts - which didn't really help.

I arrived at the hospital and walked into the family room which was next to the resuscitation room to see my sister and her partner Joe hugging and crying into the clothes my nephew was wearing that day. Joe's sister Jessica and my mum were doing the same. 

I wanted to know what was happening so I went to find someone to ask, I remember saying straight away: "Is my nephew going know, could he die from this?". They told me he was very sick but they were doing everything.  I went outside and sat until we were allowed to see him. I was called into the room where the consultant spoke about Charlie's condition for the first time since I had arrived. They said he was a very sick boy but they were in contact with teams from hospitals in London - they were to arrive soon - by this time it was nearly 3pm.

After this we were allowed to go and see him, and walking into the resuscitation room I started to cry and then I saw Charlie, lying there, tubes everywhere and a septicaemic rash covering him from head to toe. It was more than heartbreaking; I just wanted to lift him up and hold him, or for him to open his eyes and gabble baby stuff at me. I genuinely would have done anything to reverse the situation my family was in that day.  

Jessica and I just sat there and sobbed around his bed, just not understanding how this could happen. Why this would happen to my little sister and her family? She was only 21 at the time.  

We went back to the family room and the consultant came to tell us teams had arrived and they were going to do all sorts of tests of which I have no memory of as it was such a draining day.

I called my dad to say he should come from work now.

When they came back to tell us what outcomes there were it was most definitely the worst moment of my life and I am unable, even to this day, to imagine how it felt for my sister. 

They told us the infection had completely taken over my nephew's immune system and there was nothing more to be done, and possibly very little time left, so we should spend as much time with him now, which we all did.  They took all the tubes and medicines away and made him comfortable in a Moses basket on the bed. He looked so calm yet so poorly. Still not being able justify why this could happen was inevitable, but there was a little comfort knowing he was in no pain now and just peaceful and calm. The time was - as well as I can remember - around 5:30-6pm, and I called my dad to tell him this had happened. Charlie had passed.

My dad and Susan and David (Charlie's great aunty and uncle) arrived at the hospital obviously distraught; they in turn went to see Charlie, peacefully lying in his Moses basket.  Nobody really knew what do next, but it was plain that my sister was far too devastated to even stay in the hospital and after a short while her and Joseph went home, to the new home they had very recently moved into. This particular evening was going to be the first evening Charlie would have stayed there.  

I went outside to make various phone calls to work, friends and family, all of which I can't remember other than saying to my boss that I wanted to come to work the next day, and she said I was not to. I went back into the hospital to sit with Charlie and was told that as my mother and I lived with Charlie too we needed to be immunised. I hate injections and I remember being so scared but I think the only thing that kept me together was that the most precious little boy was on the bed next to me.

"The next 11 days were a complete blur, I couldn't play music in my car - and that was always a must but I just couldn't - and I just couldn't stop crying."

"One last huge kiss for Charlie, and my dad and I left the hospital. It was about 10pm; we went straight to a pub near where I lived where all our friends were, as they had obviously heard what had happened. We had a drink and a cry with friends then my dad and his partner got a lift to the hotel where they were staying and I went home.  Thursday 18th May 2006 was over!

The next 11 days were a complete blur, I couldn't play music in my car - and that was always a must but I just couldn't - and I just couldn't stop crying. I really didn't know what to do next, but there was one thing I did know, I wanted to see Charlie again, so I went on Saturday 20th May to the mortuary within the hospital. The staff were so supportive and made me very comfortable. As Charlie was still small it meant I could hold him on my knee, which to some would be strange but for me it was the best thing, still so sad but at least I was holding him close. Unfortunately I couldn't stay there all day so I said my goodbyes and went home.

A few days before the funeral I went with my mum and a very close friend Sam to see Charlie at the funeral parlour. This was definitely going to be our last goodbye before the funeral. I put a little Tigger in his tiny white coffin so he wasn't so alone. "Goodbye, Chopper, I love you."

1st June 2006. Charlie Joseph Giles-Impiazzi's funeral and burial service. We went to my sister's house to wait for the funeral car, everyone looking so sad, just so unfair. The whole road at the church was covered in cars and people driving around trying to park. I was doing a reading with Jessica, so I sat with her in the car so we didn't have to leave each other's sides. The church was full already but the first thing that caught my eye was the picture of Charlie at the front with his 'Tumble Time Tigger' next to it, his toy that I bought him for his 1st birthday. 

The coffin entered the church and I noticed they did not need as many pall-bearers as the coffin was so tiny. Jessica and I did our reading of 'In Everything Beautiful' although I admit I just cried and Jess read. She was excellent, as was my sister when she did her reading with her partner of 'A Smile Costs Nothing'. On with the prayers and then came the song which we would leave to, 'The Animal Boogie', a song which I used to sing to him and a song he loved to sing at nursery. A song which to this day I would cry at if I heard it or had to sing it, and as a part-time nursery nurse I have done well to avoid so far.  We walked out slowly, knowing that really the worse was still to come. 

We arrived at the burial to see so many flowers covering the floor, people were so supportive it was amazing and a massive comfort. As they lowered Charlie's coffin into the ground I heard my sister cry out: "Joe, no, that's my little boy please do something," and that was probably the worst point for me, not being able to help or do anything for my own sister.

We left my sister and Joe alone, and waited for them at the wake in the local pub, a small quiet venue owned by people that were so kind and supportive to my sister and Joe. We stayed long into the evening and it was a very successful day, well as successful as a funeral goes anyway.

I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, yet this particular situation I am still struggling slightly with. Laureen has since given birth to a lovely little girl - Lydia Jane Giles born on 16th Sept 2007 - and I too had a little boy on 10th Dec 2007. If Charlie were here today he would be nearly four years old and as beautiful as he was at 13 months.

Written by: Shonagh Giles
March 2009