Preston girl once given last rites as baby is celebrating her 21st birthday

Sinead Joyce, with Helen Byrne, her longest serving carer, has celebrated her 21st birthday
Sinead Joyce, with Helen Byrne, her longest serving carer, has celebrated her 21st birthday
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Given the devastating news that doctors had tried everything with their baby girl but were now going to switch her life support off as she would not survive, heartbroken parents Michael and Kathleen Joyce begged medics not to turn the machine off and give daughter Sinead a bit longer.

Sinead was only weeks old at the time and she was given her Last Rites by a priest and her family gathered by her hospital incubator to say their final goodbyes.

Sinead was very poorly as a baby

Sinead was very poorly as a baby

Miraculously, within hours of being given her Last Rites, Sinead defied all odds and began breathing for herself.

Sinead’s sister Siobhan Egan, 31, who lives in Cottam, Preston, explains: “The family faced the dreaded moment of being told Sinead would not live and that her life support would be turned off.

“It is only because of my parents’ determination and hope that Sinead is here today.

“My parents wouldn’t let it happen and begged doctors for the machine not to be turned off and for Sinead to be given a few more days.

“To our amazement, Sinead started to breathe on her own.”

Sinead, who lives in Hutton, near Preston, with her parents Kathleen and Michael, was born at the former Sharoe Green Hospital in Preston and there were complications at her birth.

Siobhan says: “My mum had a perfect pregnancy with Sinead and everything was fine. However, when my mum went into labour, there were complications and one doctor told her that they needed to do an emergency Caesarean Section and that he would be back within the hour.

“However, he did not come back and once the hour had passed, my mum was too far gone to have a C-section.

“Sinead was starved of oxygen at birth and came out black and blue. She had to be rushed to be resuscitated and was on life support in intensive care. She was then sent to Manchester St Mary’s Hospital where she continued on life support and it was here the doctors told my parents they had exhausted all options and were going to turn the machine off.

“We thought it was the end and it was a miracle when she began breathing fully for herself.”

The family took legal action against Preston hospital for the issues with Sinead’s birth and were given a small payout.

At birth, Sinead was diagnosed with quadraplegic cerebral palsy and epilepsy and in later years, she was registered blind with severe learning and cognitive difficulties.

There were lots of things that medics warned Sinead’s family that she wouldn’t be able to do – eat or drink normally, smile, roll over, speak or walk.

Siobhan, who is married to Sean, says: “My mum was persistent in fighting for Sinead to be bottle-fed rather than tube fed and in time, that helped her with her speech, language and digestive system.

“Sinead is blind and has learning difficulties and we were told she would never be able to reach the milestones of other children.

“However, Sinead was able to roll over from a young age and at one point she could sit up unaided although that has got more difficult as she has got bigger.

“When it comes to eating and drinking, quite a lot of children with cerebral palsy are peg fed.

“However, Sinead eats a meal like anyone else and loves her food and drinks from a cup.

“She can eat finger food herself, but cannot eat unaided with a knife and fork.

“She can’t bear weight or walk but apart from that, there is so much she can do.

“Sinead can speak, but not always in the right context. She likes to copy people and she can count to 21 and do the alphabet.

“The most important thing is that Sinead is able to laugh, smile and enjoy things.

“Sinead has a characteristically fun sense of humour and is really cheeky and clever in her own way.

“She loves swimming and listening to music and recordings of herself on her iPad.

“Sinead loves to laugh and she loves hugs and gives at least 100 hugs a day!”

Sinead is currently at Beaumont College in Lancaster and travels five days a week to be there. Since attending there, she has developed a more sensory and social understanding and is able to explore a variety of activities, including trampolining.

Sinead has a dedicated team of four to six carers who help the family care for Sinead on a 24-hour basis. Without these carers, the family would have struggled to continue their own individual lives.

Sinead’s longest-serving carer is Helen, who has cared for Sinead since she was 12 and the family say her support is fantastic.

Siobhan explains: “Helen is a diamond and is one in a million.

“Without her love, support and pure dedication and commitment to Sinead, we would have been lost.”

Siobhan says Sinead has enhanced all their lives and they can’t imagine life without her.

Siobhan adds: “Sinead is inspirational and you learn something new about her every day.

“We can’t imagine life without her and she has certainly impacted on our life in the best possible way.

“We could not ask for a better sister or daughter and every day is better than the last.”

Sinead reached the major milestone of her 21st birthday – a day her family once feared they might never see.

Siobhan says: “It is so momentous to see Sinead reach her 21st birthday, as we did not know how long her life span was and if it would ever happen and were unsure what complications would lie ahead in her life.

“The fact she is 21 is amazing and a real time of celebration.

“Sinead loves her family to bits and feels very lucky to have such a loving and supportive family.

“She is a fantastic sister to me and my brother Michael and sister-in-law to Sean and Louise and an aunty to Chloe.

“Sinead’s life is nothing but a miracle and we all hope to have many more years of love and happiness. Without the love and support of our parents, none of this would have been possible and for that we are truly grateful.

“All the family and members of her care team are immensely proud of Sinead.”