Listening to Ed Sheeran’s songs helped Melody Driscoll smile through the pain caused by a serious health condition. It may therefore have been a dream come true for the little girl when the pop star came to sing to her in hospital and gave her a signed guitar. Now, however, Melody’s family has revealed some tragic news about the 11-year old.
At first, Melody had seemed to be a completely typical baby, reaching all the milestones normal for her age. Then her parents, Karina and Nigel, found that her development suddenly came to a halt. Karina explained in a 2016 post on Facebook page Melody In Mind, “When [Melody] was 18 months old, she lost everything. She stopped walking, talking, playing [and] eating – everything.”
But the reason for Melody’s loss of physical abilities was seemingly discovered when, at two years old, she was given a diagnosis of Rett syndrome. As for how the condition had affected the toddler, Karina revealed on Facebook, “Doctors explained it to me that a human brain is full of light switches. And in a normal person all the light switches are on, but in Melody half of her light switches had turned off.”
So, due to her health problems, Melody, from Croydon, England, spent a lot of time in hospital. During the girl’s longest stay, however, her mom realized that Ed Sheeran’s songs seemed to have a powerful effect on her seriously ill daughter. “Melody was in hospital for 562 days. And in that time – every time she got in pain – we would have to put Ed Sheeran on to help her through the pain episode,” Karina told the Press Association in 2016.
To help her daughter, then, Karina sent a video plea to Sheeran to see if he would visit his superfan. And the request did the trick, as the pop star dropped into Epsom Hospital in November 2016 and serenaded the then nine-year-old Melody to versions of his songs “Photograph” and “Thinking Out Loud.”
Karina said at the time to the Press Association, “Melody is connected to a lot of machines and a lot of scary things and a lot of tubes. But none of that fazed [Sheeran] at all.” Melody’s mom continued, “It meant the world to me to see [Melody] truly happy. The amount she has to go through – and we managed to make her one dream come true.”
However, this event would mark only the start of an enduring bond between the pop singer and the sick girl. Sheeran subsequently sent Melody an iPad with some of his tunes on to keep at her side. In May 2017 he even gave the youngster a private show at The O2 arena in London.
Then, when the Driscolls started a legal campaign against a London hospital over Melody’s care, Sheeran responded by sending a guitar that the family could sell off to raise funds. It was further proof, it seemed, that the star had not forgotten one of his bravest fans.
Doctors at King’s College Hospital had reportedly wanted to wean Melody off painkillers – a move with which Karina and Nigel disagreed. Then, acting on the advice of the hospital, Croydon Council began a legal bid against the Driscolls as the couple were allegedly “obstructing [Melody’s] care.” Ultimately, if the council was successful, Melody could be placed into the foster system.
Talking to the BBC in January 2018, however, Karina defended the family’s wishes, saying, “[Doctors] say they want to give [Melody] a quality of life, but she’s constantly in pain and needs the painkillers.” She added, “Melody is fading away in front of us – I have no idea how much longer we have left with her.”
In the end, though, Croydon Council chose to withdraw its legal action; it also said sorry to the Driscolls. Still, the news appeared to have come too late for the family. Karina told the BBC in January 2018, “I appreciate the apology. But since that letter came to us, it has ripped our family to shreds.”
Karina added, “All we had tried to do was to protect Melody. If we were a weaker family, then we might not have had the determination to fight this and could have lost Melody.” Ultimately, the council’s case went to the U.K.’s High Court of Justice, where a judge asked all parties involved to solve the matter amongst themselves. In the interim, Melody would stay with her parents.
On top of these legal wrangles, the family still had to face the day-to-day strain of living with a hospital-bound daughter. And according to a June 2018 post on the Melody In Mind page, the little girl appeared to be struggling. The message read, “Melody is responsive, but still only to pain. You get what looks like a miracle [and] a huge step forward, but then it turns into a sideways step and you never know when things could go back again.”
Then Melody’s health took a turn for the worse. As her godmother Melica Patmore revealed on Melody In Mind, “It will take an absolute miracle for [Melody] to manage to win her huge fight now.” But, tragically, that miracle never came, as on July 4, 2018, the 11-year-old’s family broke the sad news that she had passed away.
And the post announcing the little girl’s death attracted over a thousand comments from supporters who had followed her battle. One individual said of the news, “I cannot even begin to imagine what your hearts are feeling right now. Your incredible girl Melody touched my spirit in a way that I will never fully comprehend. You know someone is truly special when even strangers fall in love with them.”
Sheeran was also among the many to offer condolences to the brave little girl. On the day her death was announced, he posted the message “Rest in peace beautiful Melody” to his Instagram account. The tribute was accompanied by a picture depicting the pop star alongside a delighted-looking Melody.
Then, on August 15, 2018, Melody’s funeral took place, with the 11-year-old transported to the ceremony in a horse-drawn carriage. Mourners for the occasion also dressed in yellow and black clothing as a way of paying tribute to the Driscolls’ daughter.
At the funeral, Karina spoke of how Melody had moved so many people – even those she had never met. The grieving mother said, “The world fell in love with you. You showed us how to be strong. We hope nothing holds you back now, and you can finally walk and talk.”
Yet while Sheeran himself wasn’t present to say goodbye to Melody, he did nevertheless mark their bond by sending her family flowers. The wreath in question was special, too, as the pink blooms had been formed into the shape of a guitar – much like the one the star had given the little girl.
Now, Melody’s family are hoping that U.K. law can be changed to give parents a stronger voice on how very ill children are treated. And Karina and Nigel’s campaign, #justiceformelody, may yet be the girl’s legacy – making her short life even more special.