Ella, a fun-loving, active and healthy girl from Ellesmere in Shropshire, passed away without warning, aged 13, in December 2022. It was later discovered that she had suffered a haemorrhage from an undiagnosed high-grade diffuse glioma.
Here is Ella’s story, as told by her mother, Sophie …
Ella was a loving big sister to our two boys, Shay and Niall who were seven and 10 respectively when she died and a much-cherished daughter to me and her dad Alastair. She was a very active, healthy teenager who loved riding her horse, Bliss, and had a wide circle of lovely friends. She was always in touch with them, even in the mornings when she was getting ready for school and doing her hair and make-up.
In the days before we lost Ella, we thought she had a bit of a sickness bug. She’d spent a lot of the weekend riding Bliss and was perfectly fine, but on the Monday she was sick and remained off school until the Thursday, vomiting from time to time, but totally fine in between. She then had a day back at school feeling OK so I thought things were looking up, but after school she was sick again and for the very first time complained of a headache, so I gave her some pain relief and tucked her into bed as usual. I remember thinking I’d get her an appointment with the GP the next day just for a check-up.
It was on Friday morning when Ella wasn’t up as usual before me that I found her unresponsive in bed. When the paramedics arrived they checked her airways in case she’d choked on her own vomit, but found nothing apparent.
“We couldn’t understand how Ella had passed so suddenly and without warning and were tortured by so many thoughts going through our heads.”
Shay had been on antibiotics for Streptococcus A (Strep A) so we presumed Ella had contracted the same but she hadn’t had any Strep A symptoms like her brother did. But I still thought this was the case and blamed myself for not insisting all three children get treated with antibiotics to be safe. I now know there was no need to get all of them treated for Strep.
It wasn’t until we had a phone call from the coroner’s office in March 2023 with the autopsy results, that we learnt Ella’s death was as a result of a haemorrhage caused by a high-grade diffuse glioma. I didn’t even know what a high-grade glioma was and we had to look it up.
“Learning what had killed my beautiful daughter hit me like a ton of bricks all over again, just like that Friday morning.”
“As broken as I am, I would have been even more broken if Ella had lived to endure endless operations and treatment, knowing she didn’t stand a chance of surviving this awful tumour and knowing as a mother there was nothing I could have done to help her.”
“I try to comfort myself that Ella died peacefully in her sleep.”
We set up Ella’s Army raising funds for Brain Tumour Research to keep our daughter’s name alive and together with Aaron’s Army we were proud to lead the Ellesmere Walk of Hope in 2023. The response from our local community particularly was overwhelming. Nearly 700 people joined the walk, raising an incredible total of more than £38,000.
We never want Ella to be forgotten and are proud that so many people walked in her name. Now we are determined to build a legacy for Ella.
Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. What’s more, they kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer... yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease since records began in 2002.
Brain Tumour Research is determined to change this.
Together we will find a cure.