Laura’s story for Giving Day 2023

Laura Gray is mum to Jessica who had cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Jessica died at St Oswald’s Hospice Children and Young Adults Service on 23rd December 2019 at eleven-years-old.

In her own words, Laura remembers Jessica:

“On the 10th July 2008, I had my daughter, Jessica. I had a relatively straight forward pregnancy so it came as a shock, after a difficult labour where she was born having seizures.

“Jessica spent her first few weeks of life in the special care baby unit at the RVI in Newcastle, where we found out that she had severe brain damage, cerebral palsy and epilepsy at three weeks old. My whole world was turned upside down. I was told to go home and enjoy spending time with her as they didn’t know how long she would live.

“Jessica was the happiest, most smiley little girl you could ever meet. Despite all of her conditions she could light up a room with her smile.

“Jessica’s short life was very difficult, she developed scoliosis which progressively got worse as she grew. She was fed through a tube into her stomach as she couldn’t swallow, she developed chronic lung disease due to the amount of times she had pneumonia and had to endure painful hip surgery at six years old.

“But she was always so strong and such a fighter. There were times where she was in intensive care and her medical team told me to expect the worst, but she would always surprise them by fighting back and getting well again.

“By the age of seven, Jessica started to decline. Her scoliosis was getting worse and she couldn’t have an operation to fix as she was deemed too high risk as she was so susceptible to chest infections. Because of this, her breathing and feeding got worse and worse.

“At the beginning of 2019, she developed pneumonia for the sixth time and we feared she wouldn’t survive. Miraculously she did and we got her home, however, she gradually got worse throughout the year.

“In December 2019, Jessica caught flu and was put on a ventilator in intensive care. I knew she had no fight left in her, so myself her dad and her medical team decided to transfer her to St Oswald’s Hospice Children and Young Adults Service for palliative care. Jessica passed away on the 23rd of December 2019 cuddled on my knee with her dad and a lovely nurse by our side.

“Losing Jessica has been the worst thing we have ever been through and not long after the country went into lockdown. My husband was a key worker and had to go back to work. I was left completely alone with my grief, which almost took my life. I didn’t know that hope was just around the corner.

“Jessica’s little brother, Jayden, was born in May 2021. He is healthy and happy and was definitely sent by his big sister to heal us. Jessica is talked about every day. We have photos of her all over our house and always tell Jayden who she is. She will always be a part of us and will always be in our hearts.”

Your support during Giving Day means that we can continue to keep our doors open for people like Laura and Jessica.

You can make a donation to our Giving Day by clicking the button here, and if you give a gift within the 33 hour donation period (8am Tuesday 29th March – 5pm Wednesday 29th March), it will be doubled, thanks to our generous match funders.

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