Thank-you for taking the time to visit our JustGiving page.
We lost our 23 year old sister, Hannah, at the the latter end of last year, very unexpectedly and suddenly to pneumonia. As you can imagine, nothing quite prepares you as a family for that.
We would like to be able to give something back to a charity (The Arthrogryposis Group) that supports those with the same disability that Han had, and we know she would too. She was the most selfless young lady and this is in memory of her.
This is why we (Katie and Alice) have decided to undertake a Skydive at the end of August, in memory of someone so special to us. We love you Han, make sure you are jumping with us!
More of Han's story:
Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita affects 1 in 50,000 babies and is in laymans terms, a soft tissue deficiency caused by lack of fluid in the womb. Throughout Mum's pregnancy there were no concerns, so you can only imagine the shock we had to see Han born virtually at right angles. Bi-laterally dislocated hips, stiff knees and deformities in her feet – a pretty ‘rubbish hand of cards’ to be dealt.
But Han is made of stern stuff. She faced into the challenges of being less mobile, with a determination that was to become her trademark.
Four major operations on her feet before she was four years old, bulky plaster casts, lots of falling over and a piece of apparatus in our dining room which essentially was a wooden railed walkway, which we called ‘our road’, which she would practise on to help her learn to walk.
And walk she did, and ballet she did, and dancing at the school disco she did and brownies she did. She did all the things that young schoolgirls do...she loved school and she usually had a queue of friends asking to help carry her bags.
As three sisters (Katie, Hannah and Alice), we became known as "The three musketeers"...’one for all and all for one’.
In early 2008 and aged 15, Han developed Scoliosis...curvature of the spine. So severe was the curvature that it required corrective surgery and off we traipsed to see some of the best consultants in the business to get their opinion.
Their collective opinion was to insert a titanium rod to stabilise the spine and prevent any further deterioration. The prospect of seeing Han undergo an 8 hour operation around the spinal cord was frightening, but she came out smiling – although that may in part be due to the morphine dosage that she was enjoying and was able to control with her personal clicker.
Han and our Dad spent two weeks in hospital that time. Han got stronger by the day and Dad became an expert in every Olympic sport taking place at the Beijing Olympic Games (as this was ongoing at the same time Hannah had her operation)!
After a week back at home, Han developed complications. It started by her beginning to sound like Joe Pasquale when she spoke. Back into Addenbrokes this time, more tests, more scans and still sounded like Joe Pasquale. Han was transferred to Great Ormond Street for more specialist care...and three days later it emerged that one of the screws fixing the titanium rod to her spine, had punctured her trachea. Our Han didn’t do things by half measures! During that period, on two occasions Han went through a pre-med to ready her for some invasive tests under general anaesthetic. On both occasions we were told ‘sorry, an emergency case has just turned up, we will have to postpone’. Our reaction was ‘aghhhhh why us!?’. Han’s reaction was ‘dad, there are plenty of people worse off than me and they need treatment more than I do right now’. That’s what we mean when we say she would always put others first. Han was in intensive care with a screw perforating her windpipe and she says ‘dad, others are worse off’.....priceless.
After GCSE’s, Han went on to spend three years at Cambridge Regional College doing Beauty Therapy and in year three, she was awarded ‘student of the year’. We were so proud. She passed all her exams and got herself a job as a beauty therapist at The Retreat in Soham.
Han had learned to drive by then...and her first driving lesson in a bright yellow skoda was a memorable occasion. Not because it was a bright yellow skoda, but because it had a disabled sticker on it. Hannah never saw herself as disabled. She passed her theory at the first time of asking and her driving test at the second time. We were so proud of her.
The Motability scheme gave her the opportunity to have her own adapted car...an ice blue mini cooper with a personalised number plate X4 HEE...
At the salon, she quickly made a great impression with the clients and she would soon be managing the salon a few days each week. She was complimented on her work, especially gelish nails and LVL lashes and we built a mini salon for her at home including a tanning booth and beauty couch where she built up a lovely group of regular clients. As for the family, we were well down the list when it came to treatments...and we would usually have to do ‘a favour’ before one would be forthcoming. That might be accompanying Han to the petrol station, taking one of her returned parcels to the post office or getting her a takeaway, especially a chicken korma.
Because of the scoliosis and the spinal surgery, Han’s lungs were affected. The contortion of the spine had pinched one of the airways and she would suffer reduced lung capacity – but to her, nothing new...another challenge - crack on!
Some of our annual trips to Papworth Hospital were priceless. Han would need to undergo a sleep monitor test at home and the machine would provide a read out. Just as the consultant was about to plug the machine in to read the results, she would tell him ‘just in case the figures are a bit off, I had a dream last and had to get up to go to the loo and probably forgot to put the clip back on my finger’. The consultants face was a picture!
An eyebrow tattoo at Tracey Giles and a lip plump were two ‘luxuries’ that Hannah treated herself to and she looked a million dollars. A pocket rocket....all 4ft 11” of her.
The DPD and Hermes delivery drivers knew her personally as an array of beauty products and accessories would be delivered almost on a daily basis. But it wasn’t all for Han. Such is her nature that she would buy clothes for Millie our cocker spaniel. Be it a Christmas suit or a pooch back pack, Han would treat Millie and there was a special bond between the two of them...we’d often find Millie up on Han’s bed just listening to Han’s stories and her music.
Just a few weeks before she passed, our Dad volunteered Han to present to a group of people from The Arthrogryposis Group whom she had never met before. She moaned...but she said ‘yes’ and we drove off to Coventry, not knowing quite what to expect. Han was brilliant, giving tips on make up, what shades suit which skin, how to care for your skin and helping paint nails as well. As we drove home that evening we stopped for a McD’s – her favourite...as she fell asleep in the back of the car Mum and Dad were both so proud of what she had achieved that day.
As you can imagine it’s been an absolute privilege to be Han’s parents and sisters. Regrets? Not being able to help set her up in business....that was our next plan and we often talked round the dinner table about how the salon would be themed and what colour schemes it would have!
The last few weeks before Han passed are a bit of a blur. The doctors and nurses couldn’t have done anymore...they were brilliant. Han passed away peacefully, in no pain and with her family at her bedside. She was a battler, a right little madam at times, but her lungs just couldn’t cope and it was one battle she just wouldn’t win.
We have very few more tears to cry...Han never complained, she never once asked ‘why me’, she just did the best she could, and always with a smile. Once met, never forgotten. She was an inspiration, a one off and she was our best mate. Han, you are now flying with the angels...have fun mate and make them laugh.