A Liverpool mum who gave her son the courage to live, has died in her sleep due to Epilepsy


Julianne Durkin-O’Brien is thought to have died due to epilepsy at the age of 32


Julie Durkin with flowers and cards received since Julianne’s death

A young mum who gave her desperately-ill son the strength to live has died at the age of 32.

Julianne Durkin-O’Brien is thought to have suffered a major or prolonged seizure due to epilepsy which was diagnosed earlier this year.

Family and friends are heartbroken at her sudden death on August 1, but her mum has told of their pride for Julianne’s fight for hope, after her son Conor was born with a rare condition which meant he wasn’t expected to live beyond the age of one.

Julie Durkin, 57, from Longview, near Huyton, said: “There was such a special bond between Julianne and Conor.

“Now, while we are so sad that she has gone, we know that she will be waiting for Conor in Heaven whenever he goes.”

Conor, who is now 11, was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a severe muscle-wasting disease which means he cannot walk or even hold his own body upright, and needs round the clock care.

Conor Durkin-O'Brien celebrates his 10th birthday pictured at Alder Hey Hospital with mum Julianne dad Phil and younger brother Cameron
Conor Durkin-O’Brien celebrates his 10th birthday pictured at Alder Hey Hospital with mum Julianne dad Phil and younger brother Cameron

Because the condition affects all the muscles it puts the major organs, like the heart and lungs, at risk, and doctors warned Julianne and husband Phil when he was born, that he was unlikely to survive.

But Julianne, from Stockbridge Village, refused to sit back and let her son die, instead raising money for pioneering treatment in America and vowing: “He is a fighter, he is our courageous Conor, and he is living proof that there is hope.”

Today it was Julianne’s courage and determination which those who knew her were praising.

Mum Julie said: “She told me ‘mum, I don’t look at what Conor can’t do, but what he can do’.

“She got the best out of him.

“She was an amazing mum, she was like a lioness with her cubs when it came to Conor and her other son Cameron, who’s six, always caring. And she was always doing things for other people, but quietly.

“When it came to Conor, it was the strength of a mother’s love which made her fight for him, for his life and for his quality of life.”

Julie revealed her daughter was about to start campaigning for a communication device for Conor, as his deteriorating condition means he is longer able to speak.

Conor Durkin-O'Brien, together with his proud mum, Julieanne
Conor Durkin-O’Brien, together with his proud mum, Julieanne

And she said: “Julianne didn’t just give Conor hope, she gave other families like hers hope too. She touched so many people’s lives.”

Julianne won an ECHO Mum of the Year Award and she was nominated for the national Lesley Pearce Women of Courage Awards.

But her struggle, inevitably, took its toll. It was at New Year when Julianne had a series of seizures and was later diagnosed with epilepsy, the condition which is thought to have led to her death.

She went to bed as normal on Thursday, July 31, but when her husband went in to wake her the following morning she was dead.

An initial post mortem examination revealed death by natural causes, but medics suspect she had a major or prolonged seizure.

“It is such a shock,” said Julie. “Her three sisters and brother have taken it really hard, they were all so close.

“It’s heartbreaking seeing her husband Phil and her sons without her, because they will miss her so much. I worry, too, because Julianne was the only one who could truly understand Conor. They all need her.”

A celebration of Julianne’s ‘inspirational life’ is being held at St George’s Church, St George’s Road, Longview in Huyton on Thursday, at 1pm, followed by cremation at St Helens Crematorium at 2.30pm.

Conor Durkin-O'Brien as a baby with with mum Julianne and dad Phil
Conor Durkin-O’Brien as a baby with with mum Julianne and dad Phil

Julie said: “She had a faith so there will be hymns, like Lord of the Dance which she loved, but her favourite songs too, like Adele’s Feel My Love – which seems fitting for someone who gave so much herself.

“We can’t mourn her, just be thankful for her life. For her. She was the most beautiful soul.”

Mum Julie added: “Of course we wish she hadn’t gone, but we are glad that she went without pain; that she floated to Heaven, her beautiful heart and her beautiful mind.”


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