Burnley mum’s meningitis death leads to £20,000 awareness campaign

Julie Palmer who died from meningitis in 2002 aged 32 (s)
Julie Palmer who died from meningitis in 2002 aged 32 (s)

WHEN devoted mum-of-three Julie Palmer died from meningitis just before Christmas 2002 her family, including her three young children, were devastated.

Within 36 hours, the fun-loving 32-year-old had gone from being her bubbly self to being reliant on a life support machine. Three days after she was admitted to hospital, her mum Mrs Mary Moore had to make the agonising decision to switch off the ventilator.

Almost nine years on, the family have raised more than £20,000 for meningitis charity Meningitis UK and committed themselves to raising awareness of the brain bug as part of Julie’s legacy.

They are urging residents in Burnley to seek immediate medical advice if they or their children start experiencing symptoms and stressed people of all ages can be affected by the illness.

Julie had complained of severe headaches, sensitivity to light and an aching neck before her mum called for an ambulance.

Mrs Moore said: “Julie had come over to the pub I had in Wigan for the weekend with her children.

“On the Monday morning she said she wasn’t going to work so I looked after the children. At 5 p.m. she got up and was fine. She was talking but then said the light was hurting her eyes.

“I thought it was a migraine as she was prone to migraines. She kept complaining about how cold she was so we put some extra clothes round her and at 1 a.m. she said her neck was aching but she went to sleep.

“But by 8-40 a.m. she was delirious so I called the ambulance.

“The week before Julie died she had the flu,” said Mrs Moore, of Carlton Road, Burnley.

“I thought she still had a bit of a bug or a migraine, I had heard of meningitis in babies but not adults.”

Julie had a small mark on her foot but no rash, a common symptom associated with the disease. But while they were still reeling from Julie’s death, Mary and the rest of Julie’s family were hit by a second meningitis scare. Eighteen months after Julie died, her nephew Jordan Rainford, then aged nine, developed the illness.

“My daughter Jacqueline rang me at 6 a.m. and said Jordan had all the symptoms Julie had. He was complaining of headache and neckache,” said Mrs Moore.

“I told her not to waste any time and that’s what it was – meningitis. In hospital he looked up to the sky and said ‘thank you auntie Julie for saving my life.’”

In the years since Julie’s death the family, including her parents, children and three sisters, have raised more than £20,000 for Meningitis UK through fund-raising events, sponsored walks and CD sales.

Her organs were donated to save the lives of five people, including a young dialysis patient who had Julie’s kidneys and a 65-year-old man from London who had her heart.

“I’m not just saying it because she was my girl but when she walked into a room it would light up,” said Mrs Moore. And she heaped praise on Julie’s three children Marcus (21), Kirsty (19) and Zoe (14) for the way they have handled themselves since the tragedy. Marcus is studying criminology and psychology at UCLan in Burnley and Kirsty is a hairdresser while Zoe is still at school.