How this Lostock Hall mum juggles caring for her eight-year-old daughter with Down's syndrome with running a cleaning business

Theresa Queen with her two daughters Maisie and Ella, and stepdaughter Katie (right).Theresa Queen with her two daughters Maisie and Ella, and stepdaughter Katie (right).
Theresa Queen with her two daughters Maisie and Ella, and stepdaughter Katie (right). | ugc
It is a nightly reality for her eight-year-old daughter to stop breathing in her sleep - and on bad nights, it can happen up to 20 times.

That is because Theresa Queen's youngest child has a condition called sleep apnoea - when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep due to muscles in the throat relaxing.

Maisie was also born with both a hole in her heart and Down's syndrome, the latter causing a level of learning disability. It occurs in people who are born with an extra chromosome.

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But despite the family's difficulties, Lostock Hall mum Theresa says she takes things as they come.

Theresa runs Lostock Hall cleaning business Queen Clean.Theresa runs Lostock Hall cleaning business Queen Clean.
Theresa runs Lostock Hall cleaning business Queen Clean. | jpimedia

The 36-year-old said: "Maisie stops breathing in the night, which wakes her up a lot. She's a terrible sleeper, and is always in my bed because she settles better there. There have been times when we've both gone three days without any sleep.

"She has very narrow airwaves, which are half the size they are supposed to be, so she can find it difficult to breathe. She has a high risk of catching pneumonia, so she can't play out without her coat."

Sleep apnoea, if left untreated, can occur hundreds of times in a night in some people.

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Theresa, who has two daughters and a step-daughter, said: "Maisie only has a mild form. On a bad night, she can wake up to 20 times and even when asleep moves constantly and snores loudly."

Theresa with Maisie and her stepdaughter Katie (at the back) and daughter Ella (on the left).Theresa with Maisie and her stepdaughter Katie (at the back) and daughter Ella (on the left).
Theresa with Maisie and her stepdaughter Katie (at the back) and daughter Ella (on the left). | ugc

And for many sufferers, the condition can lead to daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, headaches and other serious health problems.

"When it catches up with us both it can sometimes make me emotional and I find it hard to concentrate," said Theresa.

"It affects Maisie’s concentration at school and can make her very uncooperative.

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"We have both a strict routine and bed time, which we can't deviate from, as she struggles to cope with change. It can be tough.

"Luckily, I have brilliant parents who offer to have her overnight, so I have the opportunity to sleep and feel human again."

Referring to Maisie's hole in her heart, which healed when she was around 18-months-old, Theresa added: "She's been lucky health-wise and is very resilient - she's fantastic."

This weekend, which marks World Down Syndrome Day followed by Mother's Day, will offer the single mum a chance to reflect on how far her family has come over the years.

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When Maisie was diagnosed with her conditions, Theresa vowed to give her the best chance at life. The determined mum gave up her career as a hairdresser and took up a few shifts at The Wishing Well pub in Brownedge Road in order to give her daughter the extra time and attention she needed.

But when her marriage fell apart in 2017, she was forced to return to full-time work and found a cleaning job.

"I loved it and lost four stone as a result of all the cleaning," she said.

But it was a struggle to make ends meet while giving Maisie the extra support she needed.

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That's when Theresa decided to take a risk and set up her own mobile cleaning business, Queen Clean, in July 2018.

"I needed more money but couldn't do any additional hours, so I decided to work on my own and started cleaning for people I knew," she said.

The gamble paid off - in just five months, she was earning enough to hire her first employee, with the cleaning queen adding: "The phone wouldn't stop ringing."

A year later, she increased her team to four people - and in 12 months' time, she plans to take on two more.

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On top of working full-time hours, Theresa also offers an ironing service two or three nights a week when her youngest is in bed.

"It's been really hard, I won't lie, but I'm made of strong stuff - you just crack on," she said.

"It's full-on but it won't be forever."

Commenting on the difficulty of juggling a new business with caring for a child with additional needs, she added: "Sometimes, things can be difficult and even a little emotionally draining when having to function all day at work but the positives outweigh the negatives hugely and I wouldn’t swap places with anybody."

And her advice to other single mums who are struggling?

"Just reach out," she said.

"There's always someone who will help. It took me a long time to learn that."

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And, as she added: "Everyone expects so much of women all the time, and there's pressure for them to look a certain way.

"But my biggest lesson is that you can do absolutely anything you want to. Women are so much stronger than they think they are."

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