Jessica's surprise visit back to Slemish College!

Shaun Oneill

Reporter:

Shaun Oneill

Email:

sport@ballymenaguardian.co.uk

JESSICA Philpott made a surprise return to Slemish College last week - just weeks after undergoing life changing surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London!

The 12-year-old’s operation lasted 10-hours and involved 13 highly skilled surgeons, ranging from neurosurgeons to craniofacial surgeons, to plastic surgeons, each playing a vital role reshaping Jessica’s face and skull.

Jessica, who comes from Ballymena, was born with Apert Syndrome, a craniofacial condition that affects the development of the head and limbs.

It was thought Jessica would have had to stay at Great Ormond for up to six weeks. But the brave, inspirational battler was back homein three!

Last Friday Jessica’s form teacher, Miss Nelson, arranged for Jessica and her mum, Julie, to go down to Slemish College to surprise her class mates.

The College students have accepted, loved and supported Jessica from day one, back in September last year.

As Jessica entered the classroom the smiles on their faces said it all!

“They were so glad to see Jessica. Or where those smiles due to the fact that the penny quickly dropped that they were getting out of their Friday Maths lesson,” quipped mum, Julie.

The College pupils were curious, and were keen to know all about Jessica’s surgery.

Their Class has been following ‘Jessica’s Journey’ with Miss Nelson..

But many wanted to ask questions about Jessica’s surgery and recovery.

“The questions included ‘how does she sleep with frame on, how long does the frame stay on, was it painful and how does the frame work to change the shape of the face and lots of other great questions,” outlined mum Julie.

“It was wonderful for Jessica to be able to spend some time with her friends and for them to be able to gain a better understanding of what Jessica has been through over the last number of weeks.”

Jessica won’t be able to return to school until September, but will keep in touch with the class via Google Meet.

Word of her visit quickly spread

Word of Jessica’s visit had spread quickly amongst the staff and it was wonderful to see so many teaching and non-teaching, go out of their way to come and chat with Jessica and Julie.

“Each had been following Jessica’s Journey with great interest and they went out of their way during a busy school day to come and see her, to encourage her and offer their support,” outlined Julie.

The school office staff were delighted to see their ‘friend’ back and to get one of their ‘wee daily chats’ with Jessica.

“Jessica’s assistant often jokes that if she ‘loses’ Jessica during the school day, she always knows where to find her – ‘the office’,” laughed Julie.

Mum Julie was full of praise for Slemish College who have played a vital role in supporting and encouraging Jessica on this journey.

“They have gone above and beyond during what has been a very challenging year for schools, to ensure that Jessica, although not able to be in school in person, has been very much part of the school community,” she said “And we really do appreciate all that they have done and will continue to do for Jessica. Their core values and ethos are not just words in a prospectus, they are lived out daily by staff and pupils alike and we look forward to Jessica getting back in person in September 2021.”

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