Back in the days of the Telecom Gold Noticebd there was a user on there who named herself “Country Girl”. She was a deaf-blind girl who lived in Peterborough and used a braille-based system to read the messages. Her real name, at the time, was Julia Gates, and she was certainly a feisty one. Julia always held her own, both on the board and in real-life at the many eye-ball meets we had.
Around that time, I was living with a girl (Kirsteen) who worked for Sense a deaf-blind charity, and Julia came to stay with us before an appearance on BBC’s Tomorrow’s World programme. In order to give Kirsteen a break, I spent the evening chatting with Julia. Chatting involved spelling out each word you wanted to say, by touching different parts of Julia’s hand It must have been incredibly frustrating for Julia to put up with my fumbled attempts at finger-spelling, but she was very good about it and we had a good evening.
Several months later Julia became pregnant, and Kirsteen helped out with the translating at the birth (something which made my evening of finger-spelling seem like a walk in the park, I’m sure). There was a TV programme made about Julia, her pregnancy and the birth, called “Julia’s Baby”. A year or so later, a follow up was made to show how she had got on.
Before that, Kirsteen and I had gone out separate ways, and I lost track of Julia.
Today, I used the magic that is Google to find out what had happened since and here are the results.
She’s now Mrs Julia Kimbell, and still living near Peterborough, with her husband and 3 children. She writes a regular column, “Julia’s Jottings” in “Our Special”, an American braille magazine written by and for blind women. There is a sample issue online (search the page for “Peterborough” for Julia’s column). Her email address is on there too. Last year, Julia completed the London Marathon, which you must admit is pretty impressive! There’s also an article from The Times Educational Supplement about Julia visiting a school in Peterborough.
Another deaf-blind girl used the Noticebd. Her name was Lauren Revell, and she later married and became Lauren Cooper. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her online name, maybe someone else could remind me? I helped her a little bit setting up a bulletin board in the early 90’s but hadn’t kept in touch.
While looking up Julia, I found some info about Lauren. Lauren has a website hosted at the ISP I used to work at, but that was last updated in 1997. Digging further I found a collection of poems some by Lauren, along with a page indicating that Lauren had passed away. Eventually I found a page on a solicitor’s website about the inquest into Lauren’s death. It makes very sad reading; she died on 12th May 1999, from very extreme brain damage.
It’s great to hear that Julia’s doing so well, but sad to hear about Lauren. Julia has certainly had a lot of hard times and trials, but circumstance and life obviously didn’t play in Lauren’s favour.
I’ve been very lucky.