Wish comes true for 14-year-old Eloise after 'enduring so much'
- Credit: Make-A-Wish UK
After "enduring so much" over the years, a 14-year-old girl with a rare genetic condition has had her wish granted - and her family hope to help others in a similar position.
Eloise Sharpe, from Attleborough, was diagnosed with DiGeorge syndrome, a condition that can cause a range of lifelong problems, including heart defects and learning difficulties.
When she was born with a cleft lip and palate in January 2008 it was immediately clear that something was wrong, and she was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital for specialist care.
At just six weeks old her parents were told by doctors that her heart "wasn't compatible with life".
"A heart and lung transplant would have been a possibility, but she was too small," her mother Sharon Sharpe said.
"They couldn’t say whether she would have minutes, hours or days once her life support machine was switched off.”
Eloise was later transferred to a hospice for end-of-life care, before her parents sought a second opinion at Birmingham Children's Hospital.
This proved to be a life-saving decision and she underwent open heart surgery at 12 weeks old.
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Little Eloise, who also had a hole in her heart and a missing pulmonary artery, was given a 50pc chance of survival as the operation to fit a shunt to get more oxygen to her lungs involved tiny vessels.
Mrs Sharpe explained: "The wait to get Eloise transferred to Birmingham, fearing we may lose her before surgery, was the most agonising time of our lives. Watching every breath 24/7, I didn’t sleep."
But despite the odds, Eloise pulled through.
She has since had two further open heart surgeries, a thoracotomy, surgery on her cleft lip, and many more cardiac catheters.
More operations for Eloise are said to be "inevitable" as there is no fix for her condition.
But worries about what the future may bring for the teenager were parked for a period when Make-A-Wish got in touch with the family to grant her wish of a Mr Men themed birthday party.
The charity said it was an opportunity for Eloise and her family to focus on "something other than the next hospital appointment".
And Mrs Sharpe said it did just that, with the planning and excitement of her daughter's wish helping them over a few months.
Eloise turned 14 on January 30 and was surrounded by all of her friends in a big birthday celebration.
Mrs Sharpe said: "I was overcome with emotion when I walked in to see Eloise’s name in lights.
"With shielding, Eloise missed her special birthday turning a teenager, so this brought so much joy to us.
"Eloise has endured so much over the years and with more surgery pending in the next few months these memories are precious.’"
And now the family are calling on people to help raise money for the charity to make other children's wishes come true.
Ahead of World Wish Day on April 29, they want to raise at least £95,000 for Make-A-Wish UK, which will help "revive childhoods lost to critical illness" across the region.
Make-A-Wish UK said another 38 children like Eloise are still waiting for their wish to be granted across the East of England.
Jason Suckley, chief executive, said: “When a child like Eloise is diagnosed with a critical condition, the joy of childhood is brought to an abrupt end with treatment plans, appointments and worry taking over.
"The power of a wish – in this case, a 14th birthday party - revives a childhood stolen by critical illness, by giving Eloise and her friends a special occasion to laugh and party the night away."
A spokesperson added: "For Eloise, whose future remains uncertain, life is about making memories and having fun.
"With 38 children waiting in East England alone, we need to raise £95,000 to clear the wish map in east England by World Wish Day on April, 29.
"Critically ill children and their families have been waiting long enough."
To donate visit make-a-wish.org.uk/east