A YOUNG girl born with a rare health condition and with less than five per cent chance of survival celebrated her 10th birthday – with more than 350 cards.

Isabelle Goldsmith, from Chalgrove, was born with exomphalos meaning her organs are on the outside of her body.

She wasn’t expected to survive during the pregnancy or to live much longer after birth if she did.

As a result, her parents, Matt and Natalie, said they feel ‘so lucky’ every time Isabelle celebrates a birthday and try to make her dreams come true.

Herald Series: Isabelle opening her cards Isabelle opening her cards (Image: Ed Nix)

This year, Isabelle hoped to receive 1,000 cards with help from the Oxford Mail and Herald Series readers.

A total of about 215 cards were sent in from readers as well as Isabelle receiving over 100 cards from her family and friends.

It took the Isabelle, who celebrated her birthday on Friday 17, all weekend to open the cards which came from all over the world.

Mrs Goldsmith, who co-founded The Oxfordshire Chocolate Company with her husband, said: “This has brought us so many memories that we never thought it would.

“Some of the things people have written – they are really heartfelt, and we didn’t expect that. I think Isabelle’s story touch a lot of people.

“There were other people with poorly children who got in touch. Somebody wrote to say that had a similar story to Isabelle’s and she was now 54.

Herald Series: All the cards sent into the Oxford Mail officeAll the cards sent into the Oxford Mail office (Image: Newsquest)

“Some things were just really, really lovely and Isabelle really cherished opening each one – which is why it took her so long.”

When Isabelle was born, her parents were advised that she wouldn’t survive for more than a few days so every 10 minutes she was alive her parents described as a ‘blessing’.

She spent the first year of her life in the John Radcliffe Hospital and had two open heart operations.

Though she is now settled at home, she has been in and out of hospital with numerous appointments and she’ll need more surgeries in the future.

Her exomphalos was planned to be repaired last year by pushing the contents back in and putting a prosthetic muscle in place to hold it all in.

However, her doctors and parents agreed that she wasn't stable enough to cope with such major surgery at present and she is coping well with her organs still on the outside of her body.

Mrs Goldsmith said that because of Isabelle’s medical conditions, herself and Mr Goldsmith always ‘go all out’ on her birthdays because it reminds them how lucky they are.

Herald Series: Reporter giving Isabelle and her dad Matt the cardsReporter giving Isabelle and her dad Matt the cards (Image: Ed Nix)

“For her birthday we’ve always asked her what she would like and it’s a long running joke that she always asks for something unbelievable,” she said.

“When she was four she wanted a ride on a real unicorn and more recently she asked for Hugh Jackman to attend her party as she loves The Greatest Showman – I wish I could have pulled that one off.”

This year, Isabelle wanted to receive 1,000 cards after watching a man on television receive many cards for his 100th birthday.

Mrs Goldsmith said: “I tried to explain that the man reaching 100 was amazing but she said, ‘I am turning 10 and that is amazing.’

“I thought, ‘Actually that is amazing given what she has gone through’. The fact she’s turning 10 for us it a miracle so it would be great if we could make her birthday can come true.”

Cards arrived for the young girl from Taiwan, Germany, Cyprus, Greece and America.

One favourite of Isabelle’s with a man from Old Headington who had recently celebrated his 100th birthday and sent Isabelle a photo of his party stating he was ‘ten times older’ than her.

Another favourite was a man – Nigel - who sent 19 cards in total.

“Someone went through an awful lot of effort to do that,” said Mrs Goldsmith. “She was opening them and was really excited to see if Nigel has sent another one – he really made her day.

“A special thank you to Nigel for going through all that effort.”

Her parents also believe they may have found a nurse who worked at the intensive baby unit when Isabelle was born.

Herald Series:

Mrs Goldsmith said: “There was one lady that touched Matt and I the most who said she remembers Isabelle’s birth.

“She didn’t say specifically who she was but we think we recognise her name as a nurse when Isabelle was born.

“She said she can’t believe Isabelle is 10 and has left her details as she would like to stay in touch with Isabelle.”

Isabelle now plans to stick all her cards into different scrapbooks to keep forever. She also cut out some of the more ‘interesting’ stamps to keep in the books as well.

“She wasn’t counting them,” said Mrs Goldsmith. “So to her it felt like a thousand cards – she said her birthday wish came true.

“Matt and I can’t thank everyone enough for helping grant Isabelle’s wish.”


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This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Abingdon, Didcot, Wallingford and Wantage.

Get in touch with her by emailing: gee.harland@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @geeharland