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About Ella

Ella1 Year 3

Ella’s school photo

The life of Ella Roberta: a funny, busy, clever, curious, sporty and musical child

Ella was born in Lewisham Hospital and was a healthy, young girl until just before her 7th birthday she began to develop, what was later confirmed at her inquest, rare and life threatening asthma.

What many people find incredible about Ella’s story is that she was amazingly active despite her illness – She took on everything in her path with such persistence and positivity that it was impossible not to notice.

 “The beautiful life of Ella Kissi-Debrah is an inspiration, not only to me but I’m sure all of those who she chose to spend her time with.”

Her sheer determination and the overruling passion continues to inspire people today. Ella had a knack for a number of sports and activities, starting from the age of 2 when she joined a Millwall FC ‘Little Kickers’, age of 4 she joined a gymnastics club, to later excelling in swimming, dance and performing arts, football, just to name the few that she won gold, silver and bronze medals in. She was also asked to play for Millwall Football Club despite her chronic condition (due her astounding natural ability physically and mentally.) Cycling, scootering, skateboarding, roller skating; you name it, Ella loved to try it.

“When I last saw her I helped her download a book on her treasured Kindle Fire, which she read in 10 minutes.” Regina Mambu-Small, Trustee

Being sporty was just one of her many skills; she was extremely creative with a love for music. She had a sizeable CD collection and was a gifted musician spending hours playing the drums, cornet, piano, guitar, singing and making up songs. During her illness Ella read a lot of fantasy novels and used art, writing in her diaries and listening to music to express her feelings about her illness.

Ella’s biggest dream was to become a pilot and she hoped she would eventually outgrow her asthma.

Her illness

“She was admitted to hospital 27 times over a three-year period with life-threatening asthma, including three spells in intensive care. – Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah, The Guardian”

The pathologist who carried out her post mortem said it was “one of the worst cases of asthma ever recorded in the UK”

Ella’s asthma was very complex, she had continuous mucus plugins and the mucus was thick like white glue a bronchoscopy revealed. She was unable to clear it from her lungs despite physical therapy. The mucus continually made her lungs collapse. Ella also had coughing syncope (there is no known case in a child) as well as reflex anoxic seizures which was brought on by hypoxia. There was no pattern to Ella’s asthma attacks, some of her triggers for example hay fever were  known but there were others that were airborne which continue to be unknown even after her death.

Ella had her first hypoxic seizure during a severe attack and stopped breathing, she ended up In ICU in December 2010. After the first episode the attacks continued and Ella was frequently rushed to Lewisham Hospital; she was admitted to ICU a further four times.

She passed away on the 15th February 2013.

Throughout her illness Ella had been treated in five separate hospitals but no medical professional had ever explained that air pollution could be making her asthma worse.