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This week marks the end of the GCSE exams, which have seen millions of teenagers across the UK sitting in crowded school halls alongside their peers to get their best grades. But for 16-year-old Gabriella Boyd, the experience has been very different: she has had to go through this transition period all alone in a room as an inpatient at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Gabriella, from south-east London, suffers from gastroschisis, a birth defect that occurs when a baby's stomach doesn't fully develop in the womb, which has seen her in and out of hospital since she was a child.

Gabriella went viral last month after sharing a video on TikTok with the popular hashtag #GRWM (Get Ready With Me), which is typically used to showcase a beauty routine before a night out or meeting up with friends. Gabriella's video showed her waking up at 4:30 a.m. to “get ready” for a biology review. The video has since been viewed 6 million times.

Yahoo News spoke to Gabriella, who told us about her condition and what a “normal” school day in the hospital looks like – especially when trying to take exams.

Gabriella Boyd stood with her mother Virginia, her father Alex and her younger brother Suvero.Gabriella Boyd stood with her mother Virginia, her father Alex and her younger brother Suvero.

Gabriella Boyd stood with her mother Virginia, her father Alex and her younger brother Suvero.

Gabriella's condition

Gabriella's mother revealed that her unborn daughter was suffering from gastroschisis – a condition that affects about one in 3,000 babies each year – when she had an ultrasound scan shortly before her due date in 2008.

Virginia, now 49, was told her daughter would need surgery, with a 95% chance of success. Unfortunately, complications arose and Gabriella was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where she remained until she was five years old.

Since then, she has been in the hospital dozens of times.

Gabriella's last admission was in February this year. She sometimes works at the family restaurant Kumquat in Tunbridge Wells with her father Alex, 45, and 13-year-old brother Suvero. Although Gabriella and her brother played their violins at the restaurant during Chinese New Year celebrations, the symptoms associated with her gastroschisis had returned and days later she was back in a hospital bed.

Gabriella had to undergo surgery to remove some of the scar tissue around her intestine, which doctors believed was the cause of her severe pain, but unfortunately this did not solve the problem.

She told Yahoo: “My stomach was so bloated – I looked like I was six months pregnant every day. It wasn't good.” After the procedure, she was told there was a “large area of ​​dilated bowel” that would require further surgery. But she decided to postpone the procedure for a month so she could sit some of her GCSEs. Doctors, nurses and her parents tried to talk her out of it, but she was determined to sit at least some of her exams. And as she had just turned 16 in March, she signed her own consent form.

Boyd underwent the surgery and then posted a video on TikTok in which he gave a thumbs up and lip-synced along to a popular audio song.

“I have a lot of support around me,” she says. “Of course it's just sad to say that, it's just another thing that happens.”

It helps her a lot to maintain her routine every day, whether it's through self-care like skincare or yoga and journaling. One of Gabriella's most popular influencers is 22-year-old wellness content creator Fernanda Ramirez, who has gained 1.4 million followers by posting videos.

However, there are times when she feels depressed. “There are days when I ask myself, 'Why me?' But the therapists here have really helped me get through it. We talk about my health and the surgeries I've had.” Her family also encourages her to think positively. “Gabby is a very positive girl. I always teach her to be positive, keep her head up and keep going,” says Virginia.

Gabriella Boyd's morning routine went viral with three million views. (Image credit: Gabriella Boyd / TikTok)Gabriella Boyd's morning routine went viral with three million views. (Image credit: Gabriella Boyd / TikTok)

Gabriella Boyd's morning routine went viral with three million views. (Image credit: Gabrielle Boyd / TikTok)

A “normal” school day

Gabriella's school life was different from that of many others her age. At first she had to take classes in the hospital.

Chelsea Community Hospital School teaches children aged between 4 and 18. Gabriella says that as patients, they are offered the opportunity to take time out and rest to recover rather than attend school. As her GCSEs approached, she was “encouraged” to attend classes to prepare for her exams, Gabriella says.

Although her viral video shows Gabriella getting up at 5 a.m. to start studying, that's not her usual routine. She usually gets up between 7 and 9 a.m., when her infusion pump – called total parenteral nutrition (TPN) – comes on just in time for breakfast while nurses watch her. Gabrielle says she hasn't been able to eat much and has had no appetite for about three weeks. “It took me almost two hours to finish a quarter of a meal – it was crazy,” she says.

She then attends hospital school at 10:30 a.m. before breaking for lunch at 12:30 p.m. Unlike many critics of hospital food, Gabriella says it's not that bad – when she can eat. “Today I ordered macaroni and cheese and cauliflower for lunch. For dinner I ordered baked chicken with cheese and bacon, vegetables, mashed potatoes and chocolate cake cream.” Then it's off to afternoon classes before the school day ends at 3 p.m.

Boyd's hospital room was decorated with cards of support. (Photo credit: Gabriella Boyd)Boyd's hospital room was decorated with cards of support. (Photo credit: Gabriella Boyd)

Boyd's hospital room was decorated with cards of support. (Photo credit: Gabriella Boyd)

Exam period

Gabriella's version of an exam room is on the hospital's second floor, which she describes as a “glass hut” with a round table and comfortable chairs. She has access controls that allow her to take a break. “I know the proctor pretty well,” she says. “So when we take our little break, we just chat and it just doesn't feel like an exam.”

She describes herself as academic and artistic, with her grades usually being 7s, 8s and 9s – the equivalent of A, A* and A**. She sings and can play the violin. She is intelligent and attended Newstead Wood School, a selective girls' grammar school in Orpington, Kent. On her last day of secondary school, she went to say goodbye to her friends and teachers. She said: “I painted my graduation shirt and everything. It was just a really lovely day. I literally spent the whole day signing shirts.”

“Gabby deserves better”

Her family often comes to visit, and recently her grandparents came from Hong Kong. Her mother said she comes every Monday to Wednesday, but on other days the restaurant is very busy.

Gabriella Boyd with her grandparents from Hong Kong.Gabriella Boyd with her grandparents from Hong Kong.

Gabriella Boyd with her grandparents from Hong Kong. (Photo credit: Gabriella Boyd)

Speaking to Yahoo, her mother was moved as she spoke of the difficulties her marriage and daughter have been through. She said, “Gabby deserves better.” She said, “This is not normal for a little girl who has been through so much.”

“It's really hard,” she says, but admits that she has learned to be stronger from her daughter.

“Suddenly, just like Gabby, we have reached a whole new level of humanity.”

Like many girls her age, Gabriella is a Swiftie and her parents have bought her tickets to see the pop megastar this summer. Her mother said: “We bought her a special gift, she wants to see Taylor Swift. Our family is unlucky but also very lucky that we can afford to make her happy.”

Next, Gabriella wants to go to high school to do her Abitur: “I'm going to take politics, economics, classical antiquity and French and drop French after Christmas. I'm just doing it because I like the subject.” After that, she wants to be her own boss and start her own business.

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