Four-year-old Isabella, who is cared for by Julia's House, has been able to visit Santa’s grotto for the first time, after Father Christmas himself invited her for a private visit.
Isabella with Father Christmas

Little Isabella would not normally be able to queue up with all the other excited children to see Father Christmas.

Her deteriorating lung condition means she is extremely vulnerable and she always needs to be attached to an oxygen tank to help her breathe. Because Isabella’s mum, Erica, can only carry one of the heavy canisters at a time, she worries that it could run out if they are delayed away from home.

So the family were delighted when they were invited to attend a special private visit to meet Father Christmas at the Durrington Fair Grotto last week. And to add to the magical event, it was the very same Father Christmas who visited Isabella in Salisbury Hospital when she was a baby.

Baby Isabella with Father Christmas in Salisbury Hospital

The mystery big man in red – who wishes to be known only as Father Christmas – reached out to Julia’s House when he saw Isabella’s story in the charity’s Christmas Appeal. He remembered the youngster from when he visited her as a baby at Salisbury Hospital and wanted to make sure both Isabella and her mum had a wonderful Christmas to remember.

“We were absolutely delighted that Isabella was able to join us and meet me in my Grotto. Something that she hasn’t been able to do before,” said Father Christmas. “The last time I met her was three years ago in hospital on Christmas Day. She really is a lovely little girl and I understand from her mum Erica that she really enjoyed herself.”

Isabella was just six months old when doctors discovered she had a rare condition that causes chronic lung disease. Now her Mum Erica fears that if her condition worsens “there may not be a lot more they can do” for the smiley youngster.

“My Christmas wish would be that we can reduce Isabella’s oxygen soon,” says Erica. “She is on the maximum she can be on at home. It means if she became ill, or if her breathing worsened, she would have to be admitted to the hospital and there may not be a lot more they can do for Isabella. There is the potential to go on the transplant list for new lungs, but it’s something I find very difficult to think about - Isabella suffering or struggling to fight for her next day.”

Single Mum Erica has been supported by Julia’s House since Isabella was first born. We provide a lifeline of care for families of the most seriously ill children across Wiltshire and Dorset.

Nurse Associate Harriet and Isabella

Julia’s House Nurse, Molly Douglas, visited Isabella and Erica at their Amesbury home shortly after their trip to Santa’s grotto. Along with other specialist Julia’s House nurses and carers, Molly provides essential respite care breaks for the family at home and at the local charity’s hospice building in Devizes.

Molly said: “Isabella was so excited to tell us she had met Father Christmas – she said it was awesome! It’s really amazing for Bella to have these opportunities and experiences, and to help get her excited for Christmas. It’s been a challenging year for them and so many other families, so it’s more important than ever right now that she has some happy times to enjoy with her mum.”

The vital care provided by Julia’s House children’s hospice is almost entirely funded by donations. It is only because of our wonderful supporters that we can raise the essential funds we need each year to care families of life-limited and life-threatened children – in their homes, at our hospices and out in the community.

Read Isabella’s story and support local families this Christmas >>