The courage and determination shown by Devon farmers David and Tracey Grigg is inspirational.
The Griggs farm in Devon, where they live with daughters Joanna, now 15 and Julia 10.
In March last year their world was turned upside down when Julia took herself off to bed because she was feeling unwell. Tracey subsequently found her unconscious and the emergency services were called. It was discovered that she had suffered a form of stroke caused by a rare brain problem called an AVM, which forces the blood to effectively pump the wrong way. No one knows why AVMs happen; they are usually congenital but rarely hereditary.
Tracey said: “Julia was in an induced coma for two weeks and in Bristol hospital for around three months. She underwent surgery to remove a blood clot which meant removing part of her brain.”
At the time, the couple had 220 milking cows and four milking robots, 300 followers and around 200 sheep. Apart from one tractor driver, David and Tracey did most of the work themselves. With Julia in hospital they needed to be with her around the clock, so relied on family and friends to keep their animals fed and the farm ticking over. It was a huge strain and the discovery of TB on the farm only exacerbated things. When they needed it most, their subsidy payment also failed to come through on time.
“We were somehow getting by thanks to our tremendous network of family and friends, but in truth we weren’t really managing and we couldn’t keep our eye on the ball because we were away from the farm so much,” explained Tracey.
“Eventually, David had to return home to the farm and we took on an apprentice – a local girl who we knew. David had to shoulder so much work, on top of everything else.”
The couple had never even heard of R.A.B.I until a chance meeting with the charity’s regional manager Jenni Thompson. Welfare officer Liz Hoare visited the couple on their farm and R.A.B.I was able to support the family with grants towards the new apprentice’s wages and by clearing some domestic bills.
When Julia returned home in the early part of last summer, she needed her mum full-time and Tracey remains her daughter’s main carer. Julia was able to return to school for a few hours per week in September and, luckily, her school is next door to the farm. The farm remains under TB, with one reactor found in the most recent January test. Their next test is scheduled for March, which means restrictions are likely to remain in place until at least late summer.
Tracey said: “We feel we’ve been through an awful lot but Julia is doing really well. Because she’s young she just deals with it, she’s brilliant. I think living on a farm has been beneficial for her. It’s a better environment for her recovery.
“Her school has been very supportive and they’ve had a quiet room built. I cannot thank our friends and family enough.
“Having an apprentice on the farm has made a world of difference too. When we go off to a doctor’s appointment now we feel the farm is in safe hands.
“We’re so grateful for R.A.B.I’s help and we’re happy to tell people what they can do and just how they’ve supported us.”
Find out how R.A.B.I can help you. Call 0808 281 9490 today in complete confidence.
Pictured: Julia Grigg with her own cow, Cowslip.