‘I was the baby not meant to sur­vive ... but look at me now’

Sunderland Echo - - Front Page - By Pe­tra Sil­fver­ski­old pe­tra.sil­fver­ski­old@jpress.co.uk Twit­ter: @pe­trasil­fver

Born weigh­ing less than a bag of sugar, Melissa is now a bride-to-be

She was the baby girl who wasn’t meant to sur­vive.

But mir­a­cle child Melissa Gib­son has grown up to defy the odds and is now look­ing forward to her big wed­ding day.

When Melissa Gib­son was born 14 weeks pre­ma­ture on July 31, 1990 and weigh­ing lit­tle more than a bag of sugar, her mum, Eileen Mitchell, now 54, and dad Ian Gib­son, now aged 50, were told their tiny daugh­ter’s or­gans were so un­der­de­vel­oped that she wasn’t ex­pected to live.

The Pen­ny­well lass un­der­went dozens of op­er­a­tions, had an os­tomy bag un­til her early twen­ties, and has bat­tled anorexia and de­pres­sion.

Now 27, she is ex­cit­edly plan­ning her wed­ding with fi­ancé An­drew Hep­ple, 25.

The cou­ple have been to­gether seven years af­ter meet­ing through a mu­tual friend.

An­drew popped the ques­tion on Christ­mas Day 2015 and the pair will tie the knot on June 11 next year.

Melissa, now liv­ing in Ox­close, Wash­ing­ton, said: “I am the mir­a­cle pre­ma­ture baby who was meant to die.

“I was born 14 weeks early and my stom­ach and bowel hadn’t had time to de­velop prop­erly.

“I was only 1.15lb, but at first they thought I was fine.

“Then they found out I had necro­tis­ing en­te­ro­col­i­tis (NEC) and cut me open the next day.

“My bowel was put on the out­side of my body and I had an os­tomy bag.”

Af­ter the surgery Melissa con­tracted sep­ti­caemia and nearly died.

When she was six, doc­tors de­cided to re­verse the op­er­a­tion but she suf­fered a num­ber of block­ages to her bowel along with ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain.

Melissa was in hospi­tal for months at a time, miss­ing Christ­mases and birth­days.

“When I was 10 I was get­ting se­vere pain,” Melissa said. “I was that bad they trans­ferred me straight to the RVI, then to Birm­ing­ham Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal for a bowel trans­plant. “But they chose another op­tion and said I would have the bag back for the rest of my life.” How­ever, Melissa was still in pain and she thought that if she stopped eat­ing it would help. She added: “I suf­fered from anorexia as a teenager af­ter I got it into my head that if I didn’t eat, I wouldn’t have to go to the toi­let, be­cause that was agony.” Melissa would hide food at home and at school and at 13 she weighed just three-and-ahalf stone,

She said: “I got re­ally bad and I col­lapsed and was taken to hospi­tal by am­bu­lance.

“They took one look at me and de­cided I had to be tube fed.

“I was on a ma­chine all the time. I started to see a coun­sel­lor and grad­u­ally got my­self bet­ter.”

Melissa missed a lot of school and her GCSEs suf­fered as a re­sult.

She en­rolled on col­lege cour­ses, but ended up drop­ping out due to her health and fell into de­pres­sion. “I was re­ally bad,” she said. “I stayed in the house in my bed­room - for nine months.

“I didn’t want to eat. I turned my phone off and put it in a drawer. I didn’t want t o

‘I was born 14 weeks early and my stom­ach and bowel hadn’t de­vel­oped propertly.’

wash or change my clothes. I didn’t care about my ap­pear­ance.”

How­ever, Melissa was as­signed a psy­chi­atric nurse and started see­ing friends again.

That’s how she met An­drew, who works at Parseq.

“A few months down the line we were hang­ing out ev­ery day,” she said.

“I re­ally liked him, but I kept it quiet be­cause I didn’t think any­one would want to go out with me be­cause of all the prob­lems I had.

“Then one of my friends blabbed to him and he went ‘yes - I re­ally like her too’.

“We’ve been to­gether seven years now and on Christ­mas Day 2015 he gave me a ring box. I thought it was just a daft joke, but I opened it and it was a ring.

“He said ‘I re­ally love you and I want you to be my wife’ and I said ‘yes - okay’.” The pair will marry at New­cas­tle Civic Cen­tre fol­lowed by a re­cep­tion at the Slug & Let­tuce, on June 11 next year.

Although Melissa faces a life­time of med­i­cal pro­ce­dures and will even­tu­ally need a bowel trans­plant, she now has some­thing to look forward to.

“At first I wasn’t ex­cited as you would be ex­pect­ing,” she said. But now it’s get­ting nearer and I’ve found my dress, I’m re­ally ex­cited. Plan­ning the wed­ding has helped my men­tal state and given me a fo­cus. You have to have a goal.

“I was the baby who wasn’t meant to sur­vive and look where I am now.”

Melissa Gib­son and fiancee An­drew Hep­ple are get­ting mar­ried. Pic­ture: Stu Nor­ton

Melissa Gib­son with fi­ancé An­drew Hep­ple and, above, as a baby. She was born 14weeks pre­ma­ture and was not ex­pected to sur­vive.

A young Melissa

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