Meningitis in your words

Julie Miles's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Brother or Sister
  • Outcome: Bereavement
Julie Miles

Here is a picture of me and my sister Julie; she’s the one on the right. This picture was taken on holiday in Egypt and we had the best time; Julie was great fun and my best friend. Here is Julie’s story.

Christmas 2005 – we spent the day with our Mum and Dad and then on Boxing Day Julie went home. I was due to spend New Year’s Eve with her and was planning to drive up on the Friday night. We had also planned to spend the Wednesday at Julie’s house but the weather was bad and she called and told us not to come because the roads were icy and she didn’t want my Dad driving in the bad weather.

Julie had been complaining of a cold and sore throat but she thought it was clearing up. I received a call on Thursday 29th December at 5.30pm from a friend of Julie’s to ask if I could drive up and look after her because she had gastric flu (he had taken Julie to see the doctor earlier that day). After speaking to her on the phone I realised that she was very ill and asked her friend to call an ambulance. I then called my Mum and Dad and told them that I was going to the hospital and that I would call them to let them know how she was.

"I kissed her with no idea that would be the last time I would see my Julie alive"

I jumped in the car and the drive seemed to take ages. I arrived at A&E and immediately knew there was something wrong, the staff were really relieved to see me and told me that Julie was very ill but that they didn’t know what was wrong. Initially they thought she had a twisted bowel and were going to operate. They asked me if I’d like to see her and if my parents were on their way. I immediately called Mum and Dad and explained about the operation and they said they would be there as soon as possible.

I was taken to see Julie and it was a real shock, she was wired up and under a thermal blanket. I spoke to her but at that time the team working on her needed to ask me lots of questions, some of which Julie was able to answer herself.

I was desperate for them to take her to theatre so I left them to it and thought it was odd when they asked me if I’d like to see her again; Julie’s blood was irregular and they couldn’t stabilise her in order to perform the operation. I went to see her again and told her that they were going to do an operation and that Mum and Dad were on their way and we would all stay until she woke up. I kissed her on the forehead with no idea that that would be the last time I would see my Julie alive.

I went back to the waiting room and was working out what time Mum and Dad would get there. I tried to call her daughter but there was no answer so I left a message. After about 20 minutes the two surgeons came in to see me and said that Julie was dead – my Mum and Dad didn’t make it in time, her daughter didn’t know until after we left the hospital and her son, who just happened to be travelling back from Barcelona the next day, was told by his Dad the next day we when he arrived back in the UK.

It took Julie just one day to die of meningococcal disease – she was 47.

I contacted MRF soon afterwards, initially because I wanted information and to get a better understanding of how Julie could be fine one day and gone the next. I have been in contact with them ever since and have also taken advantage of their counselling service – it’s important to have someone outside of family and friends for support.

Five years on and my family are still picking up the pieces but with time the pain gets bearable and you learn to live with the loss. We talk about Julie all the time and because of the great girl she was, there’s always plenty to say!

Annette Miles
December 2010