THE parents of a baby girl diagnosed with a brain tumour have described the help they received from Julia's House children's hospice as an 'absolute godsend.'

Jenna and Luke Humphries' little girl, Ellie, was just six months old when doctors discovered the large tumour.

She spent 14 hours in surgery and suffered a stroke which left her partially sighted and with no movement down her right side.

“She was this tiny bundle with a bandaged head lying in my arms and were told we should just enjoy the time we had left with her,” said mum Jenna.

“She had started chemotherapy but there was only a slim chance it would work.”

Then, just a week before Christmas, the family received the devastating news Ellie needed another operation to relieve pressure on her brain.

Jenna said: "We had just five hours together as a family on Christmas Day. Ellie came home again on New Year’s Eve.

"She was due to have an injection just before midnight but we couldn’t wake her up, she was like a rag doll.

"While everyone in our village was looking at the fireworks we were looking out for the flashing lights of an ambulance.”

For a long time a photograph, taken of older brother Tom cradling Ellie in his arms, served as a reminder of their fears.

Jenna said: "The photo of Ellie and her brother Tom was taken the day before her operation and for a long time we could not look at it because it was too raw and full of emotion.”

Today, Ellie is cancer free – but she has scans every three months to ensure this remains the case.

Her family have chosen to highlight their story, to support Julia's House children's hospice Christmas Appeal.

When Julia’s House entered the family’s lives, Jenna and Luke said they were finally able to benefit from some desperately needed respite time.

“We were like zombies, just so exhausted trying to cope," said Jenna. "The word hospice was mentioned and we were horrified – but that was before we truly understood what Julia’s House means to families.”

Ellie's next scan is scheduled for the week before Christmas.

Jenna said: "Every time we’re scared that something will show up.

"We call it ‘scanxiety’. We love Christmas, but for us it will always be associated with heartache and being frightened for Ellie’s health.

"It has been an emotionally exhausting journey, a bittersweet cycle of hope and despair, and we are just so thankful Julia’s House has been by our side.”

Home care sessions offered by Julia's House meant Jenna and Luke could spend quality time with their son Tom, knowing Ellie would be safe and cared for in their absence.

Then just before lockdown Ellie caught pneumonia because of her weakened immune system and ended up in hospital, meaning the family had to shield for 12 weeks to keep her safe.

“Ellie’s nurses would phone and check everything was OK and help out with picking up prescriptions or food," said Jenna. "They were there for whatever was most important for us.

"Trying to do a job, home school Tom and keep up with all of Ellie’s speech and language targets and physio was a real struggle, so when we were able to have care again it was an absolute godsend.”

To donate to this year’s Julia’s House Christmas appeal visit www.juliashouse.org/Ellie or call the Donations Team on 01202 644220.

Or visit /www.juliashouse.org/virtualgiftssupport to support Ellie by buying one of the charity’s new range of virtual gifts.