A young family will celebrate their very own Christmas miracle tomorrow (25/12) – with the little baby girl that came back from the brink of death.
Just five months ago devastated Francesca, 41, and husband Lee Moore–Williams, 44, watched as their baby daughter took what they thought was her last breath.
They took one last photograph, and wept as Bella, two in January, lay sedated in a hospital’s intensive care unit and her life-supporting ventilator was turned off.
But incredibly just 30 minutes later the toddler, who doctors had given up for dead, began to improve and soon she began kicking and screaming.
Tomorrow, after a recovery which has stunned her parents and medics, little Bella will celebrate Christmas Day at home with her family at Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.
Delighted sales mum-of-two Francesca said: “It’s just amazing. It’s like we have won the lottery.
“She made our family complete and it now i’s great to see how well she is doing.
“When she says ‘mama’ it melts my heart.”
She couldn’t sit up properly in her high chair and would slump but hospital tests failed to find a reason why.
Doctors believed she may have had asthma and Bella was prescribed an inhaler as she also suffered from chest infections.
But just three months later in July, while the family were on holiday in Gran Canaria, Bella took a turn for the worse.
Throughout the entire holiday she clung on to her mum as her energy levels dropped.
The day after the family nded back home they took Bella to the family doctors who submitted her to Colchester Hospital, Essex.
By lunch time they had performed a test on her legs which showed they were “depressed” and had no movement.
She was drifting in and out of consciousness as she didn’t have the energy to stay awake so she was put on a ventilator and transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
Bella was admitted to intensive care and an MRI scan showed severe abnormalities across both sides of her brain.
The family were told that it was likely Bella had Mitochondrial disease – which is terminal.
Francesca, a sales supervisor at a construction company, said: “We were told three times that it’s not looking like she was going to survive so every day we were sat at her bedside praying.”
The couple were told that the hospital had a similar case from six years before where a child had Biotinidase deficiency and that they would start injecting her with Biotin which is Vitamin H.
Biotinidase deficiency is a genetic disorder where biotin, a vitamin necessary for cell growth, is not released from proteins in the diet during digestion or from normal protein turnover in the cell.
This creates a biotin deficiency which can become serious and even fatal if untreated.
It affects just one in every 60,000 births.
A few days passed and they tried to take Bella off the ventilator to see if she could breath by herself but she couldn’t and was re-tubed.
Francesca said: “The doctors didn’t want us to cling on to any hope because the signs were showing it was Mitochondrial and they weren’t expecting it to be Biotinidase deficiency as it only affects around two people in the UK every year.
“The days passed which was obviously very traumatic and we had the whole family by our sides.
“On July 21 we were told to say our goodbyes and the whole family came in one by one to say their goodbyes.
“I just kept sitting there thinking ‘why us’. It was heart wrenching because you see family members that you’ve never seen cry before.
“I’m daddy’s little girl and I’ve never seen my dad break down before and it was just heart breaking.
“I now feel a lot of guilt for bringing family members there to say goodbye but I didn’t know that at the time.
“I will never, ever forget that moment where I had to say goodbye to my daughter.”
The family accepted an offer to get prints of her hands and feet as a memento.
They took a final picture together with their son Bobby, 5, before the ventilator was switched off.
But 30 minutes later her oxygen levels were back up to 100 per cent and the tramuatised parents were later told Bella would survive.
Her deficiency can be managed with drugs and Bella has to take four tablets a day for the rest of her life.
Francesca added: “From the day that we were told that she was going to survive – I haven’t cried since.
“I’m frozen with emotion because you cry so much through such a traumatic period that I have nothing more to give.
“It’s frozen me and it’s going to take me time to get over the ordeal – we were just sat there waiting for her to take her final breath.”
While Bella was in hospital the family stayed at The Sick Children’s Trust which is at Acorn House at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
The “home from home” allows families to be just minutes away from the ward where their children are.
Francesca said: “They were invaluable with what they did for us and we are just eternally grateful to all the staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
“Without them we would not have been able to get through what we did because the whole time that allowed us to be by Bella‘s side.”
Bella was then transferred to the children’s ward and it took about three days before she turned into the Bella the family recognised as their little girl.
They were told by doctors that they didn’t know if she would walk or talk as she hadn’t previously reached those milestones.
Bella then spent three weeks on the ward and a further six weeks at home being weened off the harsh drugs.
Francesca said: “She’s now learning to talk and her hair is growing back and she’s even walking.
“She’s about eight months behind where she should be but doctors are confident she will pick up quite quickly.
“She’s at nursery and to look at her you wouldn’t think she’s been through what she has.
“Her body was slowly shutting down but she’s obviously a strong little fighter.
“Life is never normal for us now but you change your perception of what normal is.
“But it’s just amazing – it’s like we have won the lottery.
“She made our family complete and now it’s great to see how well she is doing and when she says ‘ma ma’ it just melts my heart.
“We are so excited to be together this Christmas and sit and watch them open their presents.
“Bella loves Father Christmas so we can’t wait to have the Christmas we thought we’d never have six months ago.”
Husband Lee, an account manager for a building company, added: “We can’t wait to be fair, it’s a bit of a celebration more than anything.
“Bobby is really excited and he can’t wait for Christmas with his sister.”
Bella now goes to nursery a couple of days a week and next year the family plan to go on holiday to make up for the traumatic one they had this year.
Bella‘s older brother Bobby has been tested for the genetic deficiency and he does not have it.
Lee and Francesca are both also being tested to see whether they both carry the gene.
Devoted father Lee said the whole experience was surreal as little Bella held his hand during what he thought were her final breaths.
He said: “It’s a bit surreal from seeing your daughter lying there and you’re helpless and there’s nothing you can do.
“I was holding her hand knowing there was going to be a little last breath.
“I could feel her hand dropping and it went down but then she started gripping my finger.
“She started moving on her own and then her machine started going off.
They had filled out the consent form which said no special measures would be taken to keep her alive.
But after she started fighting – doctors went against than plan and did everything they could.
Lee added: “The doctors changed their way of thinking and they went all the way to save her.
“In those 20 minutes I sat by but and then realised she wasn’t ready to let go.”
Lee said the family now can’t wait for Christmas and his parents and Francesca’s are spending three days with them over the festive period.
Lee added: “They were with us on holiday at the time Bella got bad so they’ve been by our sides through it the entire way.
“They have been through the whole journey with us.”
The couple have been married since 2012 and have been together for seven years.