IT’S a big day for Melissa Gibson this Sunday.
Turning 21 is a watershed in anyone’s life, but it is extra special for this Pennywell girl.
Born 14 weeks premature and weighing just 1lb 15oz, Melissa was diagnosed with life-threatening short bowel syndrome.
She had undergone nine operations before she reached the age of 10 and has had most of her bowel removed.
As well as the surgery, Melissa has twice battled anorexia, which saw her weight plummet to just over 3st, after an infection left her afraid to eat.
She also had two ileostomies – surgery to reroute the small intestine through a hole in the abdomen – at the ages of two weeks and 10 years, and has had her spleen removed.
Melissa, of Dartington Close, also suffers from painful cysts on her ovaries and needs a number of operations.
But the bubbly young woman has refused to let her health problems get her down and says she is always optimistic.
She spoke of her hopes of forging a career when she begins at Shiney Row College in the autumn.
Melissa said: “I’m looking forward to going. I want to do hairdressing or beauty.
“This is the fourth time I have made a go of college. I was supposed to have any work I had to do sent out me but there wasn’t the time with me being ill.
“Things are going well at the minute after everything that’s happened.”
Melissa, who lives with mum Eileen Mitchell, 53, who is her full-time carer, added that she is looking forward to a big birthday bash at Greens, in Low Row, to celebrate getting the key to the door.
“All my family, all my old teachers and some of the hospital staff too will be there,” she said.
In the run-up to her birthday this week, however, Melissa has more visits to hospital to deal with her condition.
“I’ve got eight appointments in one week,” she said.