In Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, the wonderful mum of Jill Dando News’ Disability Correspondent Elise shares her own experience

By Jill Dando News

“Every parent’s wish is that their child is healthy, and well and hopes that they will have a good experience at birth.

I fell pregnant with my eldest daughter, Ellise in 2001 and had a good pregnancy journey, I had no problems during my pregnancy and everything was normal and fine so I had no idea what the next part of my life was going to embark upon me.

Elise, Disabilities Correspondent with her mum Claire

I went into labour around 5am and then 15 minutes later I gave birth to my beautiful Ellise on 19th December 2001, she was so quick from the first pain to arriving.  

I can remember all the alarms going off, red lights in the room and doctors and nurses were all rushing in. My little girl didn’t make the slightest sound and the awful news that no one wants to hear, I was told she wasn’t breathing and she hasn’t been breathing for a while, she was blue and responseless. Ellise was rushed off immediately to start work to save her life. 


Ellise wasn’t breathing for 7 and a half minutes, after birth, and this is the time scale in which defines she would have no quality of life, her organs were shutting down, and they couldn’t continue, at this last minute my little fighter then suddenly  began gasping for breath and they found her feint irregular heartbeat. 

They assessed her brain and they found activity, so they continued working with Ellise safely on a life support machine. After two weeks, they were able to put her on a cpap  machine which meant she could breathe but also the machine breathed for her to take away any stress on her tiny body. 

Ellise with PCSA students

Sadly on new year’s eve she started fitting and they had to put her back in a coma so her organs didn’t get further damaged. I was told that she would be significantly brain-damaged, due to the amount of time she was starved of oxygen. They said her quality of life would be minimal. She would need 24-hour care for the rest of he life. They were unable to say about her future, if she would be able to smile, understand, have food by mouth, sit, walk or communicate. It looked really bad. 

She was in the intensive care unit for 6 weeks on life support for three weeks, and a machine that assisted her breathing for a further two weeks. Like any other parent, all I wanted was to stay with my little girl and everyone kept telling me to go home to get some rest, but I wouldn’t leave Ellise’s side, I needed her to be okay. I was helping out with all her cares so one of the lovely doctors let me stay in his room, right on the scbu unit, for the whole of 6 weeks. I can remember my mum and dad saying to me “we could give you one million pounds for Christmas or anything you want in this world and you wouldn’t  think twice about taking it, you just want Ellise to be ok.”

Ellise pictured at the Footsteps Foundation

My little girl was a little fighter, she was weened off medication and tubes. After 6 tiring, long weeks Ellise was finally allowed home to start her life. 
At eight weeks old, Ellise shocked everyone. She responded to a toy and she smiled. The doctors were amazed, however, she was like a little rag doll, very floppy. 

Ellise was a year old when she was able to sit independently for 5 seconds, but this was a massive achievement for her. I used v cushions all around her. She loved feeling her feet and used to always push down when being held. 

Ellise had a walking frame at two and a half years old and when she walked into Dorchester Hospital and they couldn’t believe it was her!

I can’t thank Dorchester SCBU Hospital enough for everything, especially the nights when I was crying with worry about the future of Ellise. Every single staff member was there right beside my side every step of the way. 

With lots of physio, learning and meeting new people in our life’s, if it hadn’t of been through her journey we would never of met, learning new skills, adapting, making sure Ellise was always heard, and listened too, and above all I made sure she never felt any different to her brothers and sisters and her school friends, and fighting to make sure she was always included. 

Through this journey her secondary school, was a massive advocate for her, it all fell into place, no more fighting, they just knew and treated her in every single way to make sure she was happy and listened too. Forever grateful. And then we jump forward to where she is today, 

Who would thought 21 years later that little girl we were told who would be significantly brain damaged would be very successful through mainstream schools, attend college and is currently a motivational speaker and a disabilities correspondent? 

Ellise doesn’t let anything hold her back from achieving amazing things and her ambition is to let everyone know that whether they have a disability or no disability, you should always keep on trying because life is beautiful and worth living! 

She makes me appreciate every little milestone big and small, and if I’m struggling or have challenges, I just need to look at her, her smile lights up every room, and it makes me realise , and I think everyone ellise meets, wow , if she can do this, so can I . 

As a family we are so lucky to have Ellise, her cheeky and funny personality and her positive attitude to everything , enriches all of life’s and everyone she meets. 

“Ellise is an inspiration to all.”

Ellise Hollie Hayward is the Disabilities Correspondent for Jill Dando News and the Good News Post. She started the role after giving yet another motivational talk – this time at Priory Community School Academy in Weston-super-Mare, the school that paved the way for JIll Dando News.

For more stories from Elise and our Jill Dando News reporters click: