Sunday, 4 September 2011

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

The above quote by Morrie Schwartz is captured in the book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom.

For those who are unfamiliar with the title, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ was published in 1997 and is the true story about the visits made by sports writer Mitch Albom, to his dying former professor. The book is thought provoking and the words of wisdom captured during these visits live on and will carry on inspiring readers for many years to come.

It’s precisely because Mitch Albom saw the need to capture and share Morrie’s thoughts on living and dying that the book will remain a ‘must read’ for those seeking deeper understanding. Readers may recognize that they too can create meaning and bring purpose to their lives, by taking time to consider what’s important and/or unimportant in their lives.

In a similar way to Mitch Albom, I was driven to capture the shared experiences of parents of child children with upper limb deficiency in my book ‘Shared Experiences’.

I knew that such a book would inform, reassure and comfort new parents facing the news that their child has a congenital limb deficiency or becomes limb deficient as a result of an accident or illness. It’s very nearly two years since ‘Shared Experiences’ was published and I’m still profoundly affected by the emails and letters I receive from parents from within the UK and around the world, but also the contact from limb deficient adults and adults facing battles with health and disability.

This was an unexpected consequence, but a consequence that has made me realise more and more what ‘meaning seeking’ creatures we are and that many of us seek our inspiration from a wide variety of sources. We consciously seek out ‘meaning of life’ accounts to inform our own understanding. We don’t have to be directly or personally affected by the issues to be touched or inspired by true life stories.

And of course, beyond being touched or affected we can make some quite positive choices and act accordingly. Going beyond being touched to be inspired to do more to help your fellow man or your community is where some real learning and enlightenment can be found. We can find ourselves in positive acts.

We can also learn more than we ever imagined. I was born with a shortened forearm and missing hand, so I felt I knew a lot about visible difference and particularly limb deficiency, but over the last few years my focus has widened. I have become so much more aware of wider disability and health issues.

"Disability is not a brave struggle or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live." - Neil Marcus
"Not only do physically disabled people have experiences which are not available to the able-bodied, they are in a better position to transcend cultural mythologies about the body, because they cannot do things the able-bodied feel they must do in order to be happy, ‘normal,’ and sane….If disabled people were truly heard, an explosion of knowledge of the human body and psyche would take place." - Susan Wendell

Read more:

I have also learned a lot about rippling and the ripple effect and once you get hooked on ripples you start to very careful about the pebbles you throw into your pond!

‘Each choice we make causes a ripple effect in our lives. When things happen to us, it is the reaction we choose that can create the difference between the sorrows of our past and the joy in our future.’ –
Chelle Thompson

‘Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.’
Scott Adams

I am also completely sold on how important it is to develop my creative side and that in creating and then producing much can be achieved. For many years I didn’t consider myself to be particularly creative. It wasn’t a word that I readily assigned as personality trait.

I think I associated the word ‘creative’ too closely to 'art'. I thought being creative was the ability to draw, make flower arrangements, and design gardens. As I am spectacularly bad at anything that I consider remotely ‘arty farty’ creativity was like the ‘Turkish Delight’ chocolate in the box IE the one I left until last after the caramels had been enjoyed. I’m not arty - I still draw stick men for people! However I’ve learned to be creative and I’m constantly amazed at the outcomes. Think of the possibilities!

So how does developing creativity improve your life and the lives of others? Well it’s your own personal opportunity to develop and grow your ideas. If you have those ‘wouldn’t it be a good idea if’ ideas gathering dust at the back of your mind it’s your way of bringing them out for a brush down.

I apply most of my real creativity to innovative fundraising for Reach and the other charities I support. I enjoy dreaming up interesting fundraising schemes which will hopefully capture the imagination of others and encourage them to join in. Creativity and the ‘Ripple Effect’ are very close cousins.

‘Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.’
Edward de Bono

Where Edward writes profits I see it in terms of funds raised!

‘Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.’

Martin Luther King Jr

‘But out of limitations comes creativity’
Debbie Allen

And then trust in your creative self. Share your idea, work them up, modify them and put them into action

“Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.” -Rita Mae Brown

I was lucky enough to be awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List on 31st December 2010. Let me be very quick in sharing with you, that such an award brings with it a whole gamut of emotions. For me the first stage was disbelief - that my pebbles, had created ripples worthy enough of such an award and then I became a little tongue tied on what I said about it or how I responded to the congratulations or comments of others.

I guess I didn’t want to appear to ‘Yippee, ’m going to meet the Queen’ as apart from making me look immodest, it it might appear that ‘I’m bigging myself up’ as anyone under 20 might say!

So here’s my acceptance quote;

‘I have always believed that the close collaborative efforts of teams and groups is key to bringing us together both in the work place and in the community; and more is achieved by working together than on your own. So whatever it is I’ve done to be nominated then I know it’s not my solo efforts and I want to thank those I’ve worked with for their part.

I’ve always tried to be a positive person and I firmly believe in John Wooden’s famous quote that "Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out." I’m always telling my colleagues that one!’

Nine months on from the news and subsequent investiture I now realise it’s not something to wriggle and squirm about. I don’t have to explain or justify it.

It’s there and I can use it as a platform to continue raising awareness about issues relating to disability.

I can carry on doing after dinner talks, campaigning and fundraising. It doesn’t alter me as a person. I prefer to think about it as the very nice dress that you wouldn’t wear to do the house work in, but instead prefer to keep for special occasions!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

We're stuck in a lift together!

"Everyone should be able to do one card trick, tell two jokes, and recite three poems, in case they are ever trapped in an elevator." A quote from Lemony Snicket (Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid)

If you’ve clicked onto my blog, then let’s just pretend we’re stuck in an elevator, because I find that kind of cosy and comforting. I like the thought that you made a definite decision to click on to read what I had to say. You didn’t just stumble upon me on a facebook group or happen to read a sentence or two, as you were passing - you clicked on the link. So thank you – we’re now (for a short while) stuck in a lift together!

You may wonder why I make the distinction that you made a conscious decision to click the link? Well it’s important to me, because so much has happened since ‘Shared Experiences was published on 23rd October 2009. I barely know where to start. But I want to share some of what’s happened and not all of it smells of apple pie.

The good stuff

First of all, I’ve learned enough about social networking to last me one and half lifetimes. As some of you know I joined facebook so that I could connect with parents outside the UK and let them know about ‘Shared Experiences’. To me - it seemed an absolutely certainty that a parent of a child with upper limb deficiencies in Birmingham Alabama would be going through the same thinking and emotions as a parent in Birmingham, England. I found this to true and lots of parents around the world are now benefiting from reading about how parents in the UK and Ireland dealt with the birth of their limb deficient child. A fantastic result and the equivalent of a card trick (see quote above).

Networking with parents and limb deficient people round the world has really opened
my eyes, as to how much can be done to help improve each others lives.
My in-box is growing as I’m contacted by parents and health professional who have read my book and wish to comment, say ‘hi’ or ask questions. It’s personally very rewarding and I’m glad to help.

The bad stuff

However, as good as the internet and facebook is at putting me in touch with parents it has also exposed me to a side of life I didn’t even know existed and that is the ‘secret world of a devotee’. I’ve found to my horror that there are men (and it’s mostly men) who are sexually attracted to women with missing limbs and will do anything to start up relationships with women with stumps.

Their fixation is so great that some resort to adopting fake profiles on facebook i.e. they pretend that they are also a woman with a limb deficiency. I was taken in by a few such people and discovered some of my photos had been uplifted and posted on dubious sites.

When I found out I wanted to close down my facebook account and take a hammer to my computer. It took me a good few weeks to accept that such people exist and understand more about how they choose to behave. I’ve now made my peace with the simple fact that whilst ‘Mr Main Stream’ might be a ‘tits or legs’ man that there is a minority of men who feel their pulses race at the site of a shapely stump. I’ll leave the topic of devotees at this point as I’m certainly not seeking to normalise their behaviours or give them a platform. I don’t like being pestered by devotees, but they’re out there and there is little that can be done about it.

My role as a writer, commentator, disability awareness campaigner etc.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
~ Dr. Seuss

During the last year there have been a few difficult moments - mainly because my connection to the UK based charity Reach has not always been clear. So let me, be clear! I’m a volunteer fund raiser for Reach, but I don’t act in any official capacity. Any comments and observations I make relating to the treatment of people with disabilities and other issues relating to visible difference and limb deficiency are mine and are not to be confused with the official views of Reach.

Whilst I’m very happy to raise money for Reach I’m also happy with my independence from Reach. It’s important that my readers know that my opinions and views are not necessarily aligned with Reach.

I have strong opinions about many topics such as disability hate crime, bullying etc. and I don’t have to sit on the fence - I can express my thoughts. This is an important distinction as I want to be free to be who I am and say what I think.

I wrote Shared Experiences as a purely voluntary venture. It’s my charity work and it’s my way of making a difference. All profits from the sales go to Reach, which I’m truly delighted about. It’s my hope that my book raises thousands of pounds for Reach, so that limb deficient youngsters the UK can continue to benefit from life changing and confidence building activities. But more important to me is the ongoing need to raise awareness about issues relating to having children with limb deficiencies and issues surrounding childhood limb deficiency.

So what else have I been up to? Well loads!!
I have been very busy in early 2010 helping others to raise money for Reach. So if you’ve enjoyed this blog and wish to lighten your pockets then please donate to either or I have also given inspirational talks to group such as Rotary, written articles and hosted a fab ‘Out of Africa’ party. I am delighted with the amounts of funds these activities have raised.

What’s next on my agenda
• I have another book in the pipe-line - if I manage to find an agent willing to run with my idea and sign me up.
• I’m trying to find a sponsor to host a one day event in London (or the south east) called ‘One Amazing Day.’ The concept is that I will bring together six inspirational speakers to address 150 -200 young people with visible differences or disabilities. It’s important that all my speakers have some sort of disability.
• I’m hoping to interview Michael Caines the famous one armed chef and others with inspirational stories to tell.

Well you’ve still in the lift with me and I’ve not told any jokes. There are some good ones on it’s where I found the following;
A Perfect Match
A woman frustrated by a string of lousy relationships placed a personal advertisement:
"SWF, 35, seeks man who will not beat me or chase skirts for LTR. Must be good in bed!"
After several days with no response, the doorbell rang. She answered the door to find a handsome wheelchair user with no arms or legs on her porch.
"Hello," said he, "I saw your personal advertisement. As you can see, I have no arms, so I won't beat you. I have no legs, so I won't chase after other young ladies."
"But," said she, "Are you good in bed?"
"How do you think I rang the doorbell?"

Thank you to those of you, who have bought copies of ‘Shared Experiences’. Please don’t forget to review it so that more health professionals are inclined to buy a copy. If you wish to review it or read previous reviews please click on;

Thank you staying trapped in the lift with me - sorry I didn’t get round to reciting a poem. I’ll save that for next time…


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Dear 'Shared Experiences' supporter,

I wish I knew where the last few months have gone because so much has happened. I'm delighted to tell you that 'Shared Experiences' was officially launched in Dublin at the Reach AGM, at the end of October 2009.

We sold over a hundred copies on the day which was great because most were bought by parents of children with upper limb deficiencies, including many of the contributors, so I was able to catch up with lots of people and make new friends.

Sales have continued to come in directly to Reach and it's also available via SO PLEASE BUY A COPY! An please buy a copy for any midwife, teach, doctor, occupational therapist you know!

Just before Christmas sales hit £4460 and that all goes to Reach. Sales are going well and particularly outside of the UK because facebook has helped me promote the contents of the book to groups all over the world and I'm in touch with many parents.

I received quite a number of emails from mums and dads - some sharing their stories but many asking for advice or simple help. For example one mum asked if I could explain how I tie my shoe-laces. That proved impossible to write down so my husband made a video of me demonstrating how to I wrap the lace around my stump etc.! I have posted that on facebook and it's available to genuine enquirers.

You might be wondering 'who is a genuine enquirer'? Well it's a person who has a genuine personal or human interest in limb deficiency. Unfortunately there are a group of people on the internet who have an unhealthy interest in limb deficiency and target people with limb deficiencies to satisfy sexual preferences they have for people with stumps. I could go on and I was very tempted to write an article about what they do and how they do it, but several friends suggested that in explaining their actions that I wold be in some way normalizing it! So for the moment I'm sitting on the fence with it all until I decide how best to deal with all the info I have.

Luckily I'm in contact with another charity who have also been targeted and we're sharing info on these people so as to warn other unsuspecting limb deficient people.

Back to 'Shared Experiences' .......well I feel very honoured to have been given an an award sponsored by C.H.I.L.D ( ) an Australian charity which supports children with limb deficiencies. The award is for the person who has done the most to raise awareness about limb deficiency in the community. I also feel humbled because many of those who voted for me did so because they have read 'Shared Experiences' and it was useful to them.

So the best way of saying thank you to those who have supported me is to keep on raising awareness about the issues surrounding childhood deficiencies whether they be everyday concerns over 'how will my child tie their laces' or 'should my child have a toe to hand transfer'

Thank you for reading my blog. I won't leave the next update so long. All the best to you all in 2010.


Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Review by Susan Kramer, MP for Richmond Park

“Shared Experiences” is a wonderful, positive book that draws together the experiences of so many families with children who have upper limb deficiencies, not only to share their worries and difficulties but also to share their successes and joys.

When I was young, we often visited family friends whose beautiful little daughter was a victim of Thalidomide with very short arms and minimal hands. We all envied her gorgeous blond hair and classical beauty but she so often felt such utter frustration with her short arms and just being different that she would break out into anger hitting all of us children on our arms. She and her family, who felt very isolated, would have devoured Charlotte Fielder’s book and its sense of all that is possible as well as its acknowledgement of the challenges.

The book focuses most on birth and the early years since, as Charlotte herself says, for older children “life has turned out well despite some bad experiences”. It’s an important message. And because the book has behind it the support of “Reach”, it can link parents to a national organisation for support and advice.

This book is written with such loving kindness and yet such a recounting of real experience, that it will resonate with many who have never encountered upper limb deficiency but are aware that in our world, no-one faces life without challenges.

Susan Kramer MP for Richmond Park

Friday, 28 August 2009

Welcome to new and old readers of my ‘Shared Experiences Blog’

I have some really excellent news, as yesterday the publishers sent me the final version. The layout is superb and anyone who has interest in upper limb deficiency will find it very reader friendly. The ‘layout designer’ has used pink and turquoise to alternate each chapter. So it will be very easy to flick through and find the chapters you are most interested in. It is purely fluke that these are my favourite colours!

So put a note in your diary that Shared Experiences will be available from the first week in November. However to pre-order please send an email to;

So don’t delay, place your order today!

‘Shared Experiences’ has been a truly collaborative process. It would not have been possible without contributions from parents of children with upper limb deficiencies and the support of Reach Not to mention our amazing publishers, my highly efficient and very personable editor Alexa Tewkesbury, my husband Gary and friends like Angela Boulter, Zoe & Peter Downey who have put a lot of energy into helping sell copies as well as throwing themselves into fundraising activities.

And friends and associates with their own websites like Joan Henshaw and Peter Billington for adding to their websites.

So big thanks to all those helping promote and sell Shared Experiences and enormous thanks to those of you who are buying a copy/copies. As Gertrude Stein said ‘Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.’ Gertrude certainly knew her onions, so I hope my message of gratitude is loud and clear. THANK YOU EVERYBODY.

To read reviews and for more information please scroll down and down and down!

STOP PRESS….And keep on reading because in the near future I will be creating two more blogs on whacky fund raising called

• ‘The boys are going to Banjul’ an epic adventure of three men, a rusty old car and a spare tyre.
• ‘Pete n Nick are Nutz’ see to read how stupid they are even think abut cycling around Iceland and to donate. No donation is too small because we need to reward their efforts, as they’re not that good at map reading.

Monday, 3 August 2009

When life gives you lemons - make lemonade!

I have been thinking about how to attract ‘media attention’ to boost sales of ‘Shared Experiences’. Leaving a ‘post it’ note underneath the windscreen wiper, of Rupert Murdoch’s limo is one option, but I’m actually going to leave all the big PR stuff to our sponsors and stick with my blog. However I did test the water, by sending an email to two local newspapers. A subsequent interview with one reporter, Justin, proved to be quite challenging. I had prepared myself to talk about Reach and the content of Shared Experiences’ but he was more interested in why I wrote it. I tried side swerving his questions several times, before giving in under closer cross examination!

We ended up talking about motivation, adversity and what drives us to take on certain challenges. I reflected on this after he left and I concluded it would been very handy for the sake of brevity, to come up with one single word, or ‘all encompassing’ snappy, media friendly, phrase, but nothing came to mind! Getting to a point where I was ready to write ‘Shared Experiences’ was more of a gradual process, because I had reached a stage in my life, where I was happy enough, with who I am, to be able to do it.

Being OK with yourself - is very important! You have to tell yourself. In fact you have to say it, repeat it often and then believe it. Unfortunately a ‘positive attitude’ towards life doesn’t come in a jar. It would be nice to buy a big jar, open the lid, and let positive mental attitude waft all over you, but it doesn’t work like that. However, if you are open to the possibility and take real ownership of your life; and your thoughts and feelings then you’ve started the journey. Life throws all type of brown sticky stuff at us all. None of us are immune from heartache, worry, anxiety, frustrations, emotional upset. And sometimes low self esteem, poor body image lack of confidence in our abilities, feelings of low self worth can be quite overwhelming. Life can be tough and unforgiving and just as we deal with one crisis another appears on the horizon. Developing a better positive attitude means that we start to recognise negative thoughts and feelings and deal them quicker and in a way that serves us well. Now I’m not an expert, I just know what works for me so that makes me, an expert in me.

Growing up with an obvious limb deficiency is like having the ‘mother of all spots’ on the end of your nose! Now if you have ever had a horrible big, angry, pus filled spot, shining like a beacon on the end of your conk, you will know that you can’t even contemplate leaving the house, until drastic action has been taken. You have one choice either you lance it and cover it with every medicated lotion ever produced (including domestic cleaning products) or you stay in.

Well I can’t do the equivalent of lancing my spot, so I reached a point where I had to learn to live with it and eventually like me, for me. I’m not saying it was easy and others with more obvious deficiencies might see my missing hand as just a spot, but when you’re young, you don’t see other people’s stuff – you just see your own bag of troubles. Starting work for me and mixing with adults was a big turning point and slowly the clouds started to rise. I was a very different person at fifteen, to who I am now, so I feel compelled to share what has helped and inspired me tp take on a challenge like writing Shared Experiences’.

Firstly I’m a great believer in being optimistic. There is a saying that ‘Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist the outcome is the same, but the optimist has a better time’. That’s not to say I’m blindingly optimistic and have a permanent day pass to ‘La La Land' but negative thoughts just breed more negative thoughts. The best advice I was ever given is ‘If you can’t change a situation - change the way you think about it’. So make 'being positive' a lifestyle choice.

We have one life and this is it, right here, right now. Life is fragile and can be so stupidly short and we have a responsibility to ourselves to make the best and most of it. Sometimes just seeing how others live their lives can spur us on. I watched most of the 2008 Paralympics feeling humbled, inspired and also very thankful for everything I have in life. Choose your role models carefully. Pay special attention to those who leads their lives simply, but purposefully. Stay away from anyone who wants to drain your emotionally batteries and take you down, to where they are.

We are at our best when we do things together. Sharing our thoughts, our feelings, our time. Reaching out to our friends our families, our colleagues our communities is where we start to feel that real sense of belonging and it stops us living in bubbles. It stops us from only seeing our own troubles and becoming self obsessed. Dale Carnegie said ‘Let's forget our own unhappiness by trying to create a little happiness for others - when you are good to others, you are best to yourself.’ Last year I did my first sponsored walk (only 6.5miles) but it was a 05.00 start, in the rain, but it felt purposeful and I knew I was doing it for a worthy cause. I would say to anyone who wants to lift their mood or develop more of a positive attitude do things for other people and not just you! Do a sponsored walk, grow a moustache for charity or cut an elderly neighbour’s lawn. Whether it’s a small act of kindness or big sponsored event do something that benefits someone else. Start with small things like phoning an elderly relative, sharing your knowledge by helping a colleague prepare for an interview, giving emotional support and maybe being there for someone when they fall. Be that person.

Stop being angry. There is nothing is more corrosive and damaging to you than being angry with someone else or a situation you can’t change. It draws you down and drags you in. And the longer you carry it around, the more it eats away at your very soul. Forgiveness is never easy, but once you found a way to let go of anger you start to feel better and more positive about your own life. Disposing of a ‘victim’ mentality is very empowering. Let things be. Bringing up 'old battles' keeps you rooted in the past and stops you living today. Stop asking why did this happen to me? Stop believing you were selected for bad things to happen to or were in some way worthy of it. Life is random; good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.

Forgiveness. Try and forgive others for what you think they have done to you and also learn to forgive yourself. None of us are perfect. We all screw up, make mistakes, say and do the wrong thing. That is part of the human condition. The important thing is to learn from those incidents and move on. Most of us don’t deliberately set out to hurt another human being, but relationships can become messy and complicated, so learn to apologise sincerely for your part and again move on. Keep in mind that we choose how we behave. We might not think that behaving well or badly is a conscious choice, but it is. Become more choice aware.

Acceptance. Accepting that there are some things that we just can’t change is so fundamental to our very being. Acceptance is so important and accepting that some things are outside of our control is an importance concept to grasp. We can’t change the way others think and we can’t make others like us. We just have to accept that some things just are. Although perversely when we stop trying to influence a situation, or bring someone round to our way of thinking, it often makes it possible for change to happen. For example we might throw ourselves at repairing a damaged relationship, but both sides must want to change. We can’t make people change because we want them to, but neither should we assume they never will. Acceptance of how things are in ‘the here and now’ keeps us living in the present and making the most of today.

Making the most of what we have. There is always someone who seems to have more than you or having better time of it, or so you think. But life is simpler if we learn to do the best we can, with the resources we have. There is a saying that 'When life gives you lemons - make lemonade '. It’s a quote you hear every now and again, when someone is talking about developing a positive mental attitude and especially when faced with adversity. It happens to be one of my favourite quotes and has evolved from Dale Carnegie’s original quote ‘When fate hands you a lemon, make lemonade.’ Whether you like the modern version or the original, both boil down to the same wisdom of trying to make the best of what you're given and playing the cards you're dealt etc.

I am now the result of every good piece of advice I have ever read, every fridge magnet that has ever inspired me, but most of all many years of careful soul searching and growing. I still have to remind myself constantly of all of the above and I have much, much more to learn. I’ve learnt that you are enriched by the people you meet on the journey, the experiences you share and recognizing that you can transform lemons if you want to. My next book is going to be entitled 'How to make lemonade'! Good luck.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Harriet Sergeant's review

Charlotte Fielder wrote this book for all parents who go for that first scan, or at the birth, find their new baby is missing a limb. It is a shattering experience. This excellent book offers them support, reassurance, moving and funny stories. It also offers something even more important. It offers the experience of Charlotte herself. For Charlotte was born without a left hand.

The first time I met Charlotte, it was at a Christmas party. She was entrancing a circle of people – mostly high ranking police officers and politicians. She was doing this by being entirely herself. She is funny, original and a very hardworking government employee. Everyone wanted to hear what she had to say. As she talked, she waved both her one beautifully manicured and beringed hand together with Fred, the name she gives her stump, with equal animation and confidence. Fred is never tucked away. He is out there as much a part of Charlotte as her kindness, style and humour.

This confidence appears to come to Charlotte as easily as breathing. In fact it was hard won as her determination to write this book shows. She was bullied at school and left at 16. She knows the humiliation of being a bright, attractive but one handed teenager. When she talks, you listen. But you do not despair. For Charlotte’s unique personality permeates every page. The ultimate message of this book to the new parent is one of hope. They will learn many things but the most important is that nothing need stop their child growing up to be like Charlotte – an amazing human being.

Harriet Sergeant is author of five widely aclaimed Think Tank reports on immigration, the NHS, the Police and the Care System. She has also written three books on South Africa, Shanghai and Japan. She has written for numerous newspapers and magazines in Britain and abroad and frequently appears on radio and television.