THE devastated family of a Sway woman who has died aged 28 from a rare brain disease have paid tribute to their “very kind-hearted and generous girl”.
Kerrie Bartlett, who was born to parents Suzanne and Trevor at Princess Anne Hospital on 24th August 1990, suffered from moyamoya, a rare disorder which causes arteries to block at the base of the brain.
Having attended Ashley infant and Tiptoe primary schools, Kerrie moved on to Oak Lodge School in Dibden Purlieu which caters for pupils with special educational needs.
Suzanne told the A&T her daughter’s learning difficulties meant she was “quite delayed and challenged in everything across the board”.
She also suffered several strokes, which left her weak down her left side, and twice had to undergo complex brain surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
A huge brain haemorrhage at the age of 16, caused by complications from the second operation, brought Kerrie’s schooling to an abrupt end just two months before she was due to leave Oak Lodge.
The attack had left her unable to walk or talk and needing 24-hour constant care.
“She wasn’t expected to live so she went to Oakhaven Hospice,” Suzanne recalled. “She was there for four weeks.”
However, she pulled through and both Suzanne and Trevor gave up their jobs as accounts officer and self-employed haulage contractor respectively to look after their daughter upon her return home.
A series of special adaptations were made to the family home, with hoists and lifts installed to help with wheelchair accessibility. The living room was split to create a bedroom and wet room for Kerrie.
Trevor recalled: “The nice thing about this was that when she was in her bedroom watching TV, she could see us and we could see her.
“She loved watching Tracey Beaker, The Simpsons, You’ve Been Framed and various DVDs which were mostly for young children.
“When the DVD she was watching would stop, she would look up at us to the left and this was her way of saying to us, ‘It’s stopped. Can you change it for me?’”
With both parents no longer in work, neighbours Mollie Mold, Janet Kirk and Debbie Mantle led a band of residents in a fundraising drive which raised around £5,000 towards Kerrie’s care. This included holding fun days, cake sales and a quiz at the Forest Heath Hotel in Sway.
Suzanne returned to her job on a part-time basis after four months, and six years later Trevor also went back to work part-time but this time as a personal shopper for Tesco.
The couple became Kerrie’s sole carers after losing their night-time carer support about five years ago and respite support about two years ago. They had previously received respite support at Naomi House, where they were able to stay in parent accommodation.
“We worked it out so that when I was at work, Trevor was at home and vice-versa,” Suzanne said.
“She was in and out of hospital several times and day-to-day she needed her medicines and to be washed and dressed, because she just couldn’t do anything herself.
“We used to have carers, but the authority didn’t think we warranted having carers any more so we never had any respite in the end.”
Trevor added: “When she turned 18, a lot of the support stopped. From one day to the next the care was taken away and we had to fill in a lot more so it became harder.
“We just had to adapt our lives to deal with it. We didn’t just give up, we did our best, looked after her and gave her enjoyment when we could.”
Determined that she should never be excluded in any way despite her condition, Suzanne and Trevor always took Kerrie to family gatherings. They could tell she greatly enjoyed these as she was often smiling and laughing.
In July last year Kerrie was bridesmaid at the wedding of her younger brother Mark (22) and his wife Hannah.
Mark recalled how he and Hannah decided it would be a great idea for his sister and father to lead the procession at the start of the ceremony.
“The bride normally goes first, but as Kerrie was in a wheelchair she would have been out of view, so we decided she should go first with dad so she could be the centre of attention,” Mark said.
As well as frequent visits to Suzanne’s parents Derek and Beryl Reeves in Sway, to whom she was very close, Kerrie was taken on family holidays to Devon and the Isle of Wight.
These were spent in accessible caravans, although the couple did not have any travel hoists so would manually lift her in and out of her wheelchair.
“It was a choice of either get on with it or don’t do, so we went,” Trevor said.
“It meant we could all have our holiday together. Obviously, she couldn’t go swimming or anything like that, but she was with us and with the family. She wasn’t palmed off onto a home or anything while we went away.
“Although she was dealt a bad hand with the problems that she had, we didn’t see that she should be abandoned in any way, and she wasn’t.”
Kerrie died on Saturday 2nd February in Southampton General Hospital’s intensive care unit. She is survived by her parents, Mark and her older brother Paul (30).
Recalling happy times from his daughter’s childhood, Trevor said: “We used to go down to the market at Lymington before she was ill. That was our special time together and she wouldn’t let anyone else come with us.
“She was a very kind-hearted and generous girl. If she had a last piece of chocolate, she would give it to you rather than keep it for herself.”
He continued: “She’ll be very sadly missed and will leave a big hole in our lives.
“Our whole life revolved around Kerrie – it had to. She commanded our full attention, but you only needed to have that smile and laugh and that was all you needed.”
The funeral will be held at Southampton Crematorium at 12.30pm on Monday 25th February. Family flowers only are requested, with any donations made to Oak Lodge School.