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Youngster awarded for "resilience" in face of major heart surgery

Youngster awarded for

Monday 10 June 2019

Youngster awarded for "resilience" in face of major heart surgery

An 11-year-old girl, whose “resilience and determination” saw her surprise doctors by stopping pain relief just days after a major operation for severe heart problems, has been awarded for her bravery.

Cerys Saunders was last night doubly recognised at Variety’s Young Star of the Year Awards held at Government House, being crowned both a ‘Young Star of Courage’ and the overall winner.

Born with Cardiomyopathy and Severe Pulmonary and Aortic Stenosis, Cerys has made many trips to hospital in both Jersey and Southampton from a young age. Early last year, at the age of 10, she underwent open heart surgery. 

The operation took six hours as a result of Cerys needing extra treatment and blood transfusions. Drawing on her resilience and inner strength, Cerys stopped pain relief after a couple of days, much to the surprise of her doctors. She was expected to be in Southampton for two weeks, but her recovery was so rapid that she was ready to fly home after seven days.


Pictured: The Variety’s Young Star of the Year Awards recognised 23 youngsters.

While she doesn’t know what the future holds for her, Cerys has chosen to remain bright and positive. 

“Her resilience, determination, bravery and natural ability to just get on with things is helping to see her through any challenges that come her way,” Variety said. “The courage that she has shown has made her a very worthy winner of Variety’s Young Star of the Year 2019.” 

23 other youngsters were also recognised for their contributions to ‘Community’, ‘Caring’, ‘Sports’, ‘Arts and Academia’, including another 11-year-old who once saved his young brother’s life by reattaching his breathing tube when he pulled it out.

They were chosen from a number of applications by a judging panel consisting of Lady Dalton, John Testori from Bambola Toymaster and Malcolm Lewis, Chairman of Longueville Manor. 


Pictured: Cerys and her family.

Sandra Auckland, Joint Chief Barker and Variety Chair said: “This is such a humbling event and every year I am more and more amazed by these special youngsters in Jersey, they are our young stars and they all deserve this recognition. Their stories are always so poignant and inspirational. 

“Every finalist has demonstrated strength, hard work and dedication that are well beyond their years. It is so important, not only to recognise their past achievements, but also to encourage their future aspirations.”

Meet the inspirational winners...

Young Star of Courage Age 6-10 - Joshua Doyle (6)

Joshua was only four when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, following an eye appointment. He was flown to Southampton and had emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. 

He then underwent another operation to try and remove the brain tumour which was followed by 10 weeks of chemotherapy.  A short while later, a scan showed the tumour had re-grown, so the young boy went into surgery again.


Pictured: Joshua Doyle with his Young Star of Courage Award.

From June 2017 to May 2018, Joshua had 11 operations, numerous scans, x-rays, blood tests, 10 doses of chemotherapy and 28 sessions of radiotherapy. 

He was accepted on a drug trial in June 2018 and another scan revealed the tumour was shrinking. 

He was nominated by the Jersey Brain Tumour Charity who described him “as a wonderful boy who has shown such courage for someone so young.” “He takes everything in his stride and is a little ray of sunshine,” they added.

“Joshua has many challenges ahead of him, but he will face them with great courage and determination and a big smile on his face making him a very worthy Young Star of Courage,” Variety added.


Pictured: Finalists Freya Le Page (10), Nixon Hansford (6) and Monique Gueguen.

Finalists: Monique Gueguen (10), Nixon Hansford (6) and Freya Le Page (10) 


Young Star of Courage Age 11-16 - Cerys Saunders (11)

Read Cerys' story above.


Pictured: Finalists Ana Terroso (11) and Oliver Truscott (11).

Finalists: Soreia Figueira (12), Ana Terroso (11) and Oliver Truscott (11)

Young Star of Community - Emily Bridge (16)

Since the age of 12, Emily has been volunteering at the Jersey Hospice Care Pre-Shop at St. Ouen. Recently, she even covered a shift at Clarkson House – where patients come in for day services- as they were short staffed. 

She joined St. John’s Ambulance three years ago, an experience which has given her more confidence. She has given up her free time to assist on duties at many community and charity events including The State Street Island Walk, The Boat Show, Jersey Marathon and Relay for Life. 


Pictured: Emily Bridge has been volunteering at the Jersey Hospice Care Pre-Shop at St. Ouen since the age of 12.

She has completed over 100 hours of voluntary work for the charity and has attended a number of residential courses to develop her skills. 

Emily has also volunteered at Beaulieu Convent Primary School assisting in a number of roles such as helping the younger pupils with their reading, digital skills and art activities.


Pictured: Community Finalist Josie Carey.

Finalist: Josie Carey (16)


Young Star as Carer - Riley Hansford (11)

Riley was nominated by his parents and his younger brother, Nixon, who has had very complicated needs since his birth.

Riley was only four when Nixon was born and spent a year in hospital. His parents had to alternately go to the UK with him, but Riley never felt rejected or displayed any negative emotions towards Nixon. 


Pictured: Riley Hansford (11) was recognised for the kindness and support he consistently shows to his younger brother, Nixon.

From the start, he was overwhelmed with love and wanted to be his ‘protector’. Riley saved his brother’s life once when he put Nixon’s breathing tube back in his neck when Nixon pulled it out, before opening the door for the ambulance team who were called in.

Riley regularly helps feed Nixon and give him his medication and he is always at his bedside when he is in hospital, reassuring his brother and playing with him (on Nixon’s terms). 

The young boy also helps his brother dress and put on his ventilation mask. 


Pictured: The Carer Finalists, Owen Ballantyne , Riley Clements, Sophie de Freitas, Mia Kidson and Hope Lockett.

“These are acts of kindness and support that Riley chooses to do, he is a great brother, carer and most importantly, Nixon’s best friend,” the charity said.

Finalists: Owen Ballantyne (9), Riley Clements (7), Sophie de Freitas (11), Mia Kidson (6) and Hope Lockett (7)


Young Star of Academia - Ryan Fernandes (16)

Ryan is not letting lupus – an autoimmune disease which causes the immune system to attack– get in a way of his studies. 

He is working towards completion of his GCSEs with plans to progress to further education, despite having to take a lot of time off school, due to his condition.

Video: A sneak peek at the Alice in Wonderland-themed garden party.

He frequently has to attend hospital appointments both on and to deal with the “incurable, complex disease” and its unpredictable symptoms, which include severe fatigue.

Ryan remains determined to attend school and has continued to try his best in PE and enjoys football. He is always very smartly dressed and always has a smile even when experiencing worries and anxieties. 

Ryan’s teacher at Haute Vallee nominated him as she thought he was very deserving for the award of Young Star of Academia.


Young Star of Sports - Lexi Farrell (9)

Lexi was nominated by the Chief Instructor from the Jersey Kenpo Karate Centre of Excellence where she is one of the top students. 

She has achieved the best rank of “brown belt” and won three Gold medals in the International/European Championships in Dusseldorf in German late last year.


Pictured: Lexi has been shining on the mat despite living with a condition called Chiari malformation.

Lexi’s achievement are made even more impressive by the fact she has a condition called Chiari malformation, which means her brain is too big for her head and pushes down into her spinal column.

She started experiencing symptoms of six months and could have 10 to 15 seizures a day at the time.

After being diagnosed with the condition, she went through an operation to remove a piece of her skull to make more room for her brain. Today, she still suffers from seizures but they are not as frequent.

Her nominator said that Lexi is “very brave, respectful, disciplined and an outstanding student. She is very worthy to be recognised as the Young Star of Sports.”

Finalists: Anabelle Goncalves (8), Luis Henriques (10), Isabella Mendes (9) and Hannah Silcock (11)


Young Star of the Arts - Olivia Raphael (16)

Olivia was nominated by her GCSE dance teacher who praised the her remarkable talent.

Described as a "motivated and a passionate dancer", Olivia was also said to have an "outstanding work ethic and dedication in all lessons and rehearsals."


Pictured: Olivia Raphael was crowned Young Star of the Arts after being nominated by her GCSE dance teacher.

Olivia has represented Le Rocquier School and Jersey at many competitions including the Dance World Cup, Jersey Eisteddfod and in the annual Le Rocquier School Dance Show. 

She is a versatile dancer and has gained experience, skill and knowledge in a wide range of dance styles. 


Pictured: Arts Finalist Shona Mesny.

She is also an inspirational dance teacher to the younger pupils within the school community. 

Olivia hopes to complete a dance degree and become a professional dancer in the future. Her dance teacher strongly believes the incredible drive and determination she possesses will lead her to success. 

“Olivia has also demonstrated admirable levels of courage and resilience as her mother is unwell, and she has taken on the role of a young carer providing help and support to the best of her ability. Olivia is a very much a Young Star of the Arts.” 

Finalist: Shona Mesny (16)

Pictured top: Cerys and her family. (All pictures by Vince Thorne Bespoke Photography)

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