Pals give Blackpool mum surprise homecoming party after seven months in hospital following Covid stroke

When Blackpool mum Jess Cook finally came home after spending seven months in hospital recovering from a near-fatal Covid stroke, there was quite a surprise awaiting her.

By Richard Hunt
Sunday, 8th August 2021, 11:23 am
Jess Cook, right, with partner Jayson and son Oscar, was given a surprise homecoming welcome by pals. Picture: Paul Heyes Photography

Jess, 22, was astounded to find that close friends were there to greet her and had arranged a huge welcome home banner, bunting and balloons outside her home on Fenton Road in Layton.

They had been secretly planning the homecoming bash for popular Jess to give her a lift after such a difficult year.

Jess nearly died following a terrifying Covid-linked stroke in January this year and had to be put into an induced coma.

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Jess Cook (centre) is greeting by pals as she arrives home in Blackpool

After a hospital team at Royal Preston Hospital worked wonders, Jess survived but still needed months of specialist care in the hospital’s Bleasedale neurological rehabilitation unit.

And despite being weakened by this physical trauma, caring Jess still managed to raise £1,000 from her hospital bed to help develop a sensory garden outside the unit, so that other seriously patients could benefit from it.

Jess, who has a three year old son Oscar with partner Jayson Drake, would normally be caring for others, as she works as a nursing assistant at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, but this time she has been the one needing care.

Sister-in-law Lisa Gilham, 54, who lives a few blocks down the road from Jess, on Fenton Road, was the chief organiser of the homecoming welcome.

Jess Cook (centre) is giving a send-off by staff from Royal Preston Hospital's neurological rehabilitation unit.

She said: “After all Jess has been through this year, we just wanted to give her a lovely surprise.

“She’s a wonderful girl with a smile that would break your heart.

“Jess is such a caring person, so we wanted to make her return home special for her.

“She has been in hospital for seven months and for some of that time she has not been able to see any of her family or her little boy, because of Covid safety precautions.

When Jess was seriously ill in hospital, she still managed a smile

“Yet during all that time she was still thinking of other people and even managed to raise £1,000 for the garden.

“It’s been pouring down and it’s not the kind of weather we wanted for her return, but she’s worth it.”

Dianne Moore, 67, of Ashburton Road, was one of the pals who helped organise the welcome home party, and said: “The look on Jess’ face when she pulled up outside was wonderful, she loved it.

“Jess is fabulous, she would do anything for anybody and no matter what happens, she always has a beautiful smile.

“But she’s also a fighter.

“It’s been horrendous for her this year but she was still thinking of other people.”

Jess said: “It’s been amazing, I never expected all this, after everything that has happened.

“I can’t believe how kind everyone has been.”

Jess has also been full of praise for staff at Royal Preston and says they literally saved her life.

It was partially out of gratitude to them that she set up a JustGiving page to raise funds for the rehabilitation garden.

Jess promoted her campaign with some light-hearted hair and make-up sessions from her hospital bed, relayed to friends and relatives from her Facebook page.

She wrote on her fundraising page: “The team have worked tirelessly in Royal Preston Hospital to save my life, then teach my body how to work properly again through therapy, and this is the least I can do for them.”

Hannah Wills, a staff nurse at on the Bleasdale neuro rehab unit, said: "Jess has been an inspiration to all of us, with all the work she's done for the staff and the other patients here.

"She's been amazing and we'll miss her loads."