Justin was born in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, Ireland on the 19th November 1978 at 10.22pm weighing 8lb 8 oz (3860gms). He had a thick head of dark hair. He was a healthy baby with no complications during birth. We remained in hospital for seven days before being discharged to home.
Home at the time was a one bed roomed apartment in a council estate in Bluebell, South Dublin. Justin had one sister who was three years older than him.
Justin had the usual childhood illnesses, including mumps, measles, chickenpox, sore throats but he was otherwise healthy. His speech needed some encouragement with speech therapy but after a few weeks he was pronouncing words better than many people older than he was. He was just starting school when he attended speech therapy. Other than that he had no difficulties in his development.
After a few months in Junior infants he was assessed as needing remedial English classes by the school. I was initially happy that he was getting the extra attention but as time went on and he got older with no sign of him being allowed to integrate with the rest of the class for English reading and writing I became concerned. I was assured there was no need for concern as he was getting the "best assistance" possible by the school.
Justin was becoming increasingly more frustrated with not being allowed to sit with the rest of the class during English work. Eventually I decided to have him educationally assessed by an outside source. The assessment was based on his age group and how he compared to the average eight year old. I was told he was a year behind for his age group and that "he might get a job in computers in his adult life and no one would know there was anything wrong with him". It was also suggested I visit the school and ask for their assistance and advice in helping Justin. I asked if the assessment was based on the fact that he was not been taught like other nine years old in his grade or if he was assessed the same on all subjects, could it be that the remedial class was actually holding him back, I was dismissed as being overly concerned.
When I approached the school I decided to discuss the situation with the supervisor of the remedial teachers as Justin had only recently got a new remedial teacher and I thought she might not have had long enough with him to assess how he was doing. As I stood waiting for the supervisor to finish a class the headmistress of the junior school approached me and said "Mrs. Gittons, I hear you're a very fussy mother" (What a way to approach a parent?). The supervisor arrived on the scene and I ganged up on because I was asking how I could help Justin. Basically I was told to "lay off and stop comparing him to other brighter students in his class".
A few weeks later
I was called to a parent teacher meeting with the new remedial teacher. She told me she keeps asking what a child like Justin was doing in her remedial class as she found him to be exceptionally bright, well behaved and mannered and eager to learn. We discussed how we could help Justin and it was agreed that I would approach his regular teacher and ask if Justin could be given a six month trial integrating with the rest of the class on all subjects. At this time I was studying Leaving Cert English with a community writers group and Justin and I used to do homework together in the evenings.
He was so eager to read and write that every evening he would pick a book to read and as I tidied around the bedroom he would sit in bed and "read". Every second word had to be spelt out and he gradually learnt to use sounds to learn what the words were. Justin and his sister would take turns reading a bedtime story to each other and their younger brother who was born a year and ten months after Justin.
Summer break fell right in the middle of the six month reprieve from remedial class and Justin moved from the junior side of the school to the senior side. He was starting 3rd grade (Irish system) in the September.
He came on in leaps and bounds with his new teacher. In the January of 1987 I was called to a parent teacher meeting. His teacher sang his praises, saying he was nine months ahead of the rest of the class in his reading, writing and usage of the English language. I cried, she was shocked, "I'm telling you good news". I said "Let me tell you about Justin" and so I gave her the story of the events while Justin was in Junior school. She was stunned, she said "This is not the same child".
By the time Justin was in sixth class, having had three different teachers throughout his senior schooling, I was told by his then teacher, Mr Durkin, "I hope you are saving for University, Justin is a scholar".
One thing each of his senior teachers mentioned each time I met them was that although Justin was very bright he was not pompous about it. He was an ordinary lad with great abilities. One teacher remarked on how when she was pregnant Justin would offer to stand to allow her to sit or offer to move heavy chairs or whatever it was she was trying to move while others just sat watching her.
When Justin was nine he ended up in hospital with meningitis. He had received a blow to the side of the head a few days earlier when playing outside. I checked him over when he came in crying telling me a guy had hit him and other than his pride nothing seemed broken or badly injured. He rested for the evening and seemed ok the next day. Then one morning his father got up for work and went to call the children for school and found Justin feeling very ill. He had been quite ill throughout the night but never called me.
I knew Justin was seriously ill so I got my medical book and read through it for what might be wrong with him and all the symptoms he was having pointed towards
meningitis. We did not have a family car so I called my neighbor and asked if her husband would drive me to the children's hospital, which he did. Poor Justin had a lumbar puncture and other tests which must have been extremely painful and scary for a little lad. The hospital asked about his ear as his ear drum was damaged. Justin told them about getting the blow to the head from the brat down the road. Justin was admitted to hospital and an IV was placed in his hand. he stayed in hospital for two weeks.
The world cup was on at the time so he got to watch all the matches in the hospital with the other children and staff. Sometimes his dad would visit during his lunch time and bring him McDonalds food. Justin got to meet Niall Quinn while in hospital, a guy who was playing on the Irish team in the World cup.
Justin became ill again in 1991, he had what seemed like a general chest infection but I took him to the doctor. I was unwell also at the time. The doctor told us that Justin would be fine if he just rested and had plenty fluids. He gave me a prescription for myself. By the following week I was very concerned about Justin and brought him back to the doctor for another check up. Again the doctor said he just had a minor chest infection and would get over it. I knew the cough was different and was not very convinced of what the doctor was saying. We went back to the surgery a third time and this time I was insistent that the doctor examine Justin. He listened to his chest and suggested I bring him to "an outpatients clinic" in the local children's hospital the next morning.
We had to be at the hospital before 8am so had an early night. Justin did not look well. Next morning we went to the clinic and Justin was examined by a doctor, they took samples of his spitum and sent it to the lab for testing. I was told justin had mycoplasma pneumonia and that he had got over the worst of the infection at home, however they said they would have to keep him in hospital to do physio and give him a course of IV antibiotics. He spent the nest two weeks in hospital, poor child. Needless to say this and other experiences with the family doctor did nothing for my confidence in the medical profession.
Justin had a great love of animals, he and his brother came to the rescue of an injured wild bird once and cycled to the vet with. I was annoyed with them for going out of the community without telling me but was impressed with their kindness to the bird.
When Justin started second level education he attended Old Bawn Community school.
He had a great interest in Geography, Metalwork, Woodwork, Civics and History. I was told by his Religious teacher that Justin created debate in the class and was not afraid to speak his mind. His year head told me just a few months before the accident, "If Justin was my son I'd be shouting from the rooftops about him". She also told me Justin was in a class below his abilities and together we were going to work on getting Justin moved to a class where he would achieve his potential.
During his summer holidays the first year at second level school Justin
would cycle to Brittas Lodge Riding Stables, every day to work with horses at a riding stable. He was not paid for this work but that did not matter to him, he just wanted to be close to the horses and meet new friends.
He decided he wanted to get a gerbil because a friend had one and so we went to a local garden center and bought the last one out of my last £5. He was delighted with his new pet. We placed him in a cage on top of the snooker table in the dining room, in an old bird cage we had from the canary Justin had when he was younger. After a few weeks Justin asked me if he could take care of a friends Gerbil while his friend was on holidays, I agreed reluctantly as I felt there was more to it than I was been told. Several weeks passed and the second Gerbil was still living with us in a second cage on the snooker table. Eventually Justin said that in fact his friend no longer wanted the Gerbil and could we keep it.
After a visit to the local pet store we discovered that the second Gerbil was in fact a female, which explained some of the antics that went on when both Gerbils got out together. Within a few weeks a litter of baby Gerbils were born and Justin was ecstatic. When the babies were old enough we found a pet store willing to buy them from Justin. The day we brought the Gerbils to be sold both of us cried. Justin bought new bedding and treats for the parents whom he named Sonic and Tails. Before long there was another litter and another and another, until it came to the point Sonic was worn out and so was I.
Sadly Tails died after an accident when she was out running around the hall one night. Justin buried her in the back garden in a special casket with her name inscribed on it. A few weeks later Sonic died, we were unsure what caused his death but Justin was sure it was from a broken heart. That was in March 1995. A month earlier our 12 year old cat Tiddles had died of kidney cancer. With all the visits to the vet in those final few weeks we got to know the vet very well. We took a rescue dog from him which I thought might help with the grief of the loss of the Gerbils.
Jodie, the rescue dog was a brown wire haired terrier. She had sustained injuries in either a beating or a car. She had a broken pelvis and was traumatized. Her tail had to be foxed because the nerve endings were damaged and she could not move it. Jodie soon became the family pet but we missed our cat and the Gerbils a lot.
When Justin got his summer holidays fro school that year in June he decided he would like to find work for the summer months. He got a job in a local garden center which turned out to be a bad idea because of the way employees were treated and the low pay. two weeks after he started the new job the vet called asking if Justin was interested in working with him for a week as work experience. Justin notified the job that he was leaving the following week and asked for all money owed to him to be ready for him. The following week when he was leaving there was no wages for him so he was told to call back the next day. We did not call back until the Tuesday, 18th July 1995. When we got there once again Justin was told there was no envelope there for him and for him to call back again. He was very disappointed because he wanted to do some shopping for clothes and other things. He had received absolutely no money for the work he had done from the time he started the job.
As we drove home we were hit from behind by a souped up car driven by a 24 year old who was a named driver on his mothers insurance, he hit us a second time and we ended up on the other side of the dual carriageway where we were hit by an oncoming car. Justin died instantly and myself and my other son were seriously injured.
In the following months the grief the took a grip of our little family was horrendous. Added to that was the pain from the injuries and the sense that we were not given justice in the cases which followed. The Judge found me 100% responsible for the accident, which is another story I will be writing about sometimes soon.
So who is Justin? Well what I have written above only tells of moments in his life, not who he is, the personality. Throughout his life Justin aspired to higher levels of knowledge, of awareness, of achievement, nothing ever seemed too much for him. He set his mind to something and he would work hard to achieve what he wanted to achieve. The thicker the book, the more Justin wanted to read it.
Justin was a sensitive soul, he cried when he watched E.T because the children were sad when ET had to leave. When he watched the images of starving people in Africa, when he heard about injustice and war, he would get irritated because of the injustice in the world.
He genuinely cared for his brother and sister and was concerned when he knew they were upset, that is not to say they did not have their moments when they did not get along, they did, like every normal family, but it never lasted long.
He had a great sense of humor, playing practical jokes on each one of us. He had nick names for us depending on how he was feeling or on situations.
He defended the underdog and was seldom afraid to speak out when someone was nasty towards another.
He loved Superman when he was a child and as he got older he watched Star Trek. He liked music, we used to watch MTV together as a family on a Sunday. When he was younger he like Michael Jackson, as he got older his choice of music expanded.
I have put some of his school essays together for his site which you can read by clicking on the links. I have also scanned some of his school paintings which can also been found in the links.
Over the years I have maintained this site as often as I felt the need to share something about Justin with you. In recent weeks I feel that the time has come to lay the site out in a more "mature" format, keeping in line with Justin's age. I have also edited some of my writings and removed some old stuff which serves little purpose in the purpose of this site. I hope you will continue to visit Justin's Garden from time to time and communicate with me if you wish.