The parents of a girl diagnosed with spinal muscular dystrophy have paid tribute to a hospice which has supported them through the devastating ordeal.

Annabelle Thomas, 3, was just six months old when she stopped reaching and kicking her legs.

After multiple trips to the doctors, she became severely ill and she was admitted to hospital.

On the day before Christmas Eve 2016 her parents Michelle and Chris were given the devastating news of Annabelle’s diagnosis.

She had Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1, a genetic condition that would leave her unable to talk, walk, eat or live.

Her parents Chris and Michelle, credit Haven House Children’s hospice in Woodford Gren for supporting them and transforming their daughter’s future.

“We will never forget that Christmas. All our hopes and dreams for Annabelle stopped that day. What was meant to be a magical time instead became the agonising possibility that this could be our first and last Christmas together,” explained Michelle.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Michelle Thomas credits Haven House hospice for supporting the family through the ordeal.

“We were heartbroken and in deep despair. Haven House came into our life at exactly the right time and when we had no-where else to turn.”

Three years on and Anabelle is spearheading the hospice's Christmas campaign, which urges people to donate to the charity, so more seriously ill children can benefit from the specialist services it provides.

Annabelle’s condition causes progressive muscle weakness, loss of movement and difficulty swallowing.

Constant physiotherapy is crucial to help her improve movement and the hospice has been providing her with regular sessions.

A hospice nurse also supports the family at home.

Michelle added: “Annabelle would not have made the progress that she has without Haven House. The hospice has helped re-build our family and made us realise that our dreams for Annabelle have not stopped, they have just changed.”

The charity provides care for about 370 babies, children and young people who have life-limiting and life-threatening conditions across London, Essex and Hertfordshire.

Chief executive, Mike Palfreman, said: “As a charity we rely on 81 per cent of money raised through fundraising activities like the Christmas appeal, so that we can be there for other families in similar situations.

“We know the best gift we can give our children this Christmas is to be at home with their family enjoying precious moments together and we need the support of our local community to make this happen.”

To support Haven House’s this Christmas visit or call 020 8498 5841.