An eight-year-old girl from Wolverhampton has become the ‘hostess with the mostest’ recently, after inviting her friends and family to join her for a virtual teddy bear’s picnic and raising more than £150 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.

Jessica Richards gathered together her favourite cuddly toys and with some inspiration from mum Claire, plus help from her five-year-old brother and ‘sous-chef’, William, she whipped up a storm for her fluffy friends to raise money for the hospital where doctors saved her life as a baby.

Jessica was born with Down Syndrome and not long after she arrived into the world, she was quickly rushed for a scan of her heart, which showed she had a congenital condition called Atrioventricular Septal Defect. This meant that there were holes in Jessica’s heart and one of her valves hadn’t formed correctly, causing too much blood flow and pressure.

Her mum Claire was in shock as doctors warned that her baby girl would quickly need an operation to repair her heart and at just four months old, Jessica was transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital where she underwent her first open-heart-surgery. As surgeons tried to close the holes the holes in Jessica’s heart and fix her mitral valve to prevent the extra pressure from damaging her little lungs, they soon realised that there wasn’t enough tissue to fully repair the damage and that they would need to wait for her to grow a little more before they could fit a new mechanical valve.

Unfortunately baby Jessica began to struggle and just a month after her first operation, she suffered a cardiac arrest. Rushing Jessica straight back into theatre, doctors were luckily able to fit the new valve, fully repairing her heart. After a long and bumpy journey to recovery, with five months spent in the hospital, Claire felt relief wash over her as she finally took Jessica home.

Eight years later, although she faces more surgery in the future to replace her mechanical valve as she grows, Jessica is thriving. As well as organising parties for her teddies, Jessica attends a mainstream school and leads an active lifestyle with plenty of dance medals to prove it.

Claire said: “As a family we have so much to thank Birmingham Children’s Hospital for – everything the doctors and nurses did gave Jessica a chance at life, but I’m also grateful for the way I was looked after during what was a very traumatic time in my life.

“Jessica absolutely loved holding her teddy bear’s picnic! We video called other friends who had their own parties at the same time so it was great to be able to see her socialise, albeit virtually, after so long in lockdown!”

Miranda Williams, Head of Fundraising at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “It’s so good to hear that Jessica is doing so well after such a tricky start to life and we love that she even got her cuddly toys and friends in on her fundraising!

“The funds Jessica raised will go towards helping us do more for other sick kids just like her and of course their families too.”

If you’d like to donate to our COVID-19 Appeal, you can do so here.