Villagers' support for Amazing Grace

WHEN little Grace Sheppard was rushed to hospital after turning blue following breathing problems her parents feared the worst.

Russell Claydon

WHEN little Grace Sheppard was rushed to hospital after turning blue following breathing problems her parents feared the worst.

After diagnosing the two-year-old with double pneumonia doctors warned she would have to be put on a life support machine to stand a chance of recovering.

But it was not just Alison and Marcus, her parents, who were beside themselves with worry - a whole village pub was left praying she would pull through.

And despite some scary moments during her treatment at Addenbrookes' Hospital in Cambridge, the patrons of the Five Bells in Great Cornard have been toasting her good health since she returned to the village on Christmas Eve.

The landlords and their customers, who have taken little Grace to their hearts, have even dipped deep into their pockets to buy equipment for the hospital's emergency accommodation at Acorn House, to help other parents in a similar distressing situation.

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Alison Danby, 40, Grace's proud mum, of St Andrews Road, Great Cornard, said: “She had really, really dangerously low blood pressure and they had to give her resuscitation fluid. It was scary but West Suffolk Hospital and Addenbrookes (staff) were fantastic.”

She said Grace had seemed fine at the Christmas party of her mother and toddler group the day before she had to take her into the doctors on December 12. Her mother's instinct kicked in when she was told there was nothing much wrong, going back again the same day and demanding she was referred to a hospital.

Grace was only at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds for eight hours before the severity of her collapsed lung, and the other starting to fill up with fluid, forced staff to transfer her to a specialist unit at Addenbrookes. There she was hooked up to a ventilator and fed high calorie milk through a tube in a semiconscious state.

All this time Grace's father Marcus Sheppard, 50, a postal dispatcher, had to give day by day reports back to their friends at the village pub, who were on tenterhooks.

Wendy Hedley, the landlady of the Five Bells, said: “It was very touch and go, it was terrible. She is not my granddaughter but she is as good as.

“Everybody was like 'how is she? How is she?' It was worse for us because we were not there and there were lots of tears - from men and women.

“She has been wonderful to go through what she has. 'Amazing Grace' is what we call her.”

Since Grace came out of hospital the pub has chosen Acorn House as its charity for 2010 to recognise how they looked after Grace's parents and her 11-year-old brother Rhys.

So far, �285 has been raised and pub staff have bought �117 worth of cleaning materials the hospital has said it needs to keep up the service. They will be delivering the items, alongside Grace and her parents, on Wednesday. They hope to raise �2,000, for something like a television or microwave, and Grace's mum and brother have already said they will take part in the Sudbury Fun Run on Good Friday for the charity. Anyone wishing to donate can do so at the pub or by calling them after 11am on 01787 379016.