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Grantham toddler given 10% chance of survival at birth starts preschool

A little girl who was given just a 10 per cent chance of survival at birth has started preschool this week.

Three-year-old Ella-Grace Gregorich (Ella), of Great Gonerby, was born with DiGeorge syndrome, which can cause a range of lifelong problems, including heart defects and learning difficulties.

But she has defied all odds to complete her first full day at Sunshine Preschool, in Great Gonerby, this week.

Ella-Grace Gregorich (51031715)
Ella-Grace Gregorich (51031715)

Her mum Andrea Kavanagh was pregnant when she first learned that her baby had the condition and a hole in her heart, and was advised to terminate her pregnancy.

But after refusing, Ella was born by emergency C-section and has spent a great deal of time in hospital and undergoing procedures including major heart surgery and a tracheotomy.

Despite still needing 24-hour care Ella, who has three protective older brothers, Bobby, Fenton and Harry, is now described by her mum as “full of life and a cheeky little madam with everyone she meets wrapped around her little finger”.

Ella-Grace Gregorich (51031743)
Ella-Grace Gregorich (51031743)

Entrusting Ella into the care of others at the preschool was a huge challenge for Andrea who suffers from anxiety.

Andrea added: “I always wanted to believe that we would get to this point but there really were some very dark moments. I looked around at a few playgroups but Sunshine just stood out. Ella loved it from the first time she went in and the staff have really gone above and beyond. They’ve all had to have basic training on Ella and know what to look out for. There are now three of them that are fully trained in everything, right down to doing a tube change as well as what to do if Ella stops breathing.

“I just can’t thank them enough. They are a blessing. Because of them Ella can live a semi-normal life and I get a few hours to myself. Ella still needs 24 hour care and has a one to one at preschool, but the transition to playgroup has been amazing.”

Ella-Grace enjoying a story on National Literacy Day with her key person Lisa Thomas. (51029694)
Ella-Grace enjoying a story on National Literacy Day with her key person Lisa Thomas. (51029694)

Sallie Cook, manager at Sunshine Preschool, has welcomed Ella with open arms.

She added: “She has settled in really well. We’ve all undergone training with three of us fully trained in her specific needs. This includes knowing how to change her suction tube throughout the day to help her to breathe and feel more comfortable. We are also being ultra careful with our hygiene procedures. It’s not as scary as it sounds though and Ella takes in all her stride. She’s such a resilient little girl.

“Some of the other children have asked about her valve which we just explain that it is something to help her to breathe.”

Ella will attend preschool three days a week until she starts school next September. Andrea is amazed at her daughter’s strength and courage each day, adding: “Ella has such a zest for life and lights up any room she walks into.”

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