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Where it all started

Olivia Giles used to be a lawyer – and was partner in Edinburgh firm Maclay, Murray and Spens. But on a February day in 2002, she left work early with what felt like flu. With her condition worsening, she saw a GP – who told her to take aspirin and go back to bed. She questioned the diagnosis and called for an ambulance, but by the time she arrived at hospital, her condition had become acute.

Olivia did not have flu, but had in fact contracted a strain of meningococcal septicaemia – a blood-poisoning form of meningitis, for which there is no vaccine. Not long after being admitted to hospital, she slipped into a coma, and only by amputating all four limbs could the doctors save her life. Eight months later, she left hospital having re-learned how to walk with the aid of prosthetic devices.

The kind of devices – and the quality of the service – that were so vital to her rehabilitation are freely available to us in the UK, thanks to the NHS. But it less developed countries, it’s a vastly different tale.

500 miles started life in Malawi, a country with strong links to Scotland, before spreading to Zambia and, most recently, to Tanzania. Find out more about our projects here. [link to projects page.]

Now, as well as the day-to-day administration of the charity, Olivia often visits organisations, businesses, schools and clubs to give talks and presentations on the work that 500 miles do. If you’d like to invite her to a meeting or event, contact Olivia here.

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