Meningitis in your words

Jamie Hobbs's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Unknown meningitis and septicaemia (sepsis) type
  • Age: Baby 0-1
  • Relationship: Parent
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Jamie Hobbs

My 11 month old baby son, Jamie, died of meningitis 40 years ago. It was in 1976 that this terrible disease claimed his young life.

At the time I was a young freelance hairdresser and worked at a fruit market to make enough money to support Jamie and his mother, Christine.

As time passes by I’m getting more reflective about Jamie. I still have a picture of him with chocolate all over his face. He was such a good baby. He never really cried, he was very happy – always. I used to take him with me when I went to watch the horse racing. We had a lot of good times.

Jamie walked for the first time just two days before he died. He was absolutely fine and when we put him to bed there was nothing wrong with him. But that night he woke a couple of times, which wasn’t like him. I got up at 5am to go to work at the fruit market, and usually did freelance hairdressing in the afternoon. However, at 6am my wife went to check on Jamie and thought he had bad bronchitis. I was at the fruit market when I found out Jamie had been rushed into hospital.

"It was a mystery how he died so suddenly; 10 years after Jamie’s death we asked the hospital for a second opinion - it had been meningitis."

When I got to the hospital I knew he was going to die because he looked so pale and ill. We were told it was septicaemia – blood poisoning – but we couldn't see where the infection had gone into his body because there was no cut or wound. It was a mystery how he died so suddenly of septicaemia. Then we heard about meningitis, and 10 years after Jamie’s death we asked the hospital for a second opinion. They looked at the post-mortem results and confirmed that it had been meningitis.

After Jamie passed away I felt I had to be the man. It was like that in those days, I knew my wife was really upset, and I didn't want her to see me upset as well. She saw me upset at some times, but usually I tried to keep it back. I have never really spoken about it. Maybe I should have done. I used to say I was going to work but I wouldn't turn up. I'd go out on my own, just wandering around Bristol.

I was lucky because my wife got pregnant within three weeks of Jamie dying. Having a new baby wasn't a replacement for him, but it was something else for us to think about. I now have three daughters, Abbie, Laura and Amy, and five grandchildren. All my daughters consider Jamie to be their older brother. We speak about him. To me, if he isn't spoken about it's as if he wasn't here.

The decades that have passed since then have in no way diminished my sense of loss at Jamie’s sudden death. I organise an annual independent fashion, dance and music event - The Hobbs Show – Born and Raised in Bristol, the biggest UK event of its kind outside of London. In 2016, the year I turn 60 and the year he would have turned 40, the show will be held in Jamie’s memory with all profits being donated to Meningitis Research Foundation.

Doug Hobbs
December 2015