We have asked Rebekah's Dad, David, to tell you a
little bit about Beck.
I was married I hoped Maureen and I would have three
children, two boys and then a little girl. That was
not going to happen, the Ashford Family did not have
My grandmother, Lily, was married to William. They
were both born in 1890. William had an older sister,
Jessie. I remember Auntie Jessie. Lily had
three sons: Billy, my father Kenneth and Geoffrey.
She never had a daughter.
She had no granddaughters, four grandsons.
My son, Peter, was her first great grandchild - a
boy. Then came my brother's son Jonathan and
my son Matthew - no sign of a great granddaughter.
Lily must have given up all hope of seeing am
When Maureen went into hospital I had to stay at
home with the boys. All of my children were born in
The Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital - Aylesbury, Milton Keynes did
not have a hospital of its own in those days. The
phone rang: "Your baby will be born in about twenty minutes
so come down."
"I can not possibly find someone to look
after the boys and drive to Aylesbury in twenty minutes.""
"Then do not hurry, you will not be able
to get here for the birth."
I walked into the ward where Maureen was
holding the latest member of our family. "Is he alright ?"
"It is not a he, it is a she."
Do you know what I said ? I said,
"Are you sure ?"
"Go and phone your Nan," Maureen
I went to the phone box, no
mobile phones in those days.
"When are you coming to see your great
Nan told me later that when she put the
phone down she had a little cry. My Nan cry ? She was
a loving but formidable lady who lived through some hard
times, probably never crying. She cried tears of joy when
Rebekah was born. There have been many Ashford girls since
but Rebekah Louise Maureen Ashford was the first Ashford
girl to be born for one hundred years.
When Rebekah was a toddler it became
evident that something was wrong. She would not eat and was not
gaining weight. There was a series of blood tests, I
remember the doctor wanting to repeat a test as an abnormal
result was showing. I was at Leon School where I was a head
of year when Maureen came in to speak with me. I was
running a twenty four hour disco in support of Willen
Hospice at the time. The tests showed Rebekah had failing kidneys.
Within a week she was
in hospital at Guys in London.
Rebekah was very poorly. Her life
was under threat. She needed a kidney transplant if she was
employer, Leon School, and in particular Headmaster Bruce
Abbott, was incredibly supportive.
It was easier for me to take Rebekah to
the chronic renal failure clinic at Guys Hospital in London
than Maureen. Originally Beck and I went to London on the
train but later I changed to driving.
At one time my maternal grandmother was
also in hospital in London. Beck and I used to pop in and
see her on our way to Guys. Beck and Nan were close.
Nan lived to just short of her one hundredth
and Beck constantly exchanged letters.
into London we would pass through the City of London, cross
London Bridge and into Guys Hospital. One Sunday the IRA
exploded a huge bomb in the middle of a road we used.
For months we had to
take a large detour to avoid the giant
On another occasion there was a tube strike so
traffic was heavy. Parking was impossible, I was forced to
park illegally. I was prepared to pay the parking fine in
order to get Rebekah to the clinic.
to where I had parked the car had vanished. It had
been towed away. Towed away to the other side of London. I
had to take a taxi to the place where it had been taken. The
taxi driver refused to charge me for the journey. It
cost me a lot of money to get the car back. Rebekah's
consultant, Doctor Susan Rigden, contacted the authorities
who dropped the parking charge and refunded the release fee
I had paid.
Rebekah had two kidney transplants, both
failed as her immune system rejected them. Things were not
make a little bit more money and help the family in
difficult times I was writing a series of newspaper and
magazine articles. I came to know Elizabeth Ward and
wrote an article about her. Elizabeth's son Timothy, known
as Timbo, died of kidney failure in Guys Hospital. She
went on to found the British Kidney Patients Association and
launched the kidney donor card, later to become the organ
Elizabeth recently celebrated her 90th birthday.
She is an incredible woman who was very supportive towards Rebekah.
I also spent time with the bosses of
McDonald's and wrote a newspaper article How Fast Is Fast
Food ? McDonald's was just opening its first Ronald
McDonald House at Guys Hospital to support families with
children in hospital.
It was decided that Rebekah's best chance
of a successful transplant was to receive a live donation
from either Maureen or myself. We both went through initial
tests. I was in my office at Leon School when the phone
rang. It was Doctor Susan Rigden from Guys Hospital.
"Are you sitting down ?"
"You may like to. It is you who has been
selected as the donor."
The board of governors at Leon School
gave me three months paid leave, brought in a retired deputy
headmaster to take my classes and appointed internally a
temporary head of year to take my place.
I had to undergo many, many tests in
preparation for the operation. I arranged with a
television company to make a news documentary with cameras
in the twin operating rooms. All this was done to
promote the donor card. The afternoon before Rebekah
and I were due to be admitted to hospital we were shown into
a room to await transplant surgeon Geoff Koffman coming out
of theatre as he wanted to speak to us. I knew what
was happening. When Geoff came in, still in his theatre
gown, my worst fears were confirmed. The operations were
being cancelled, doctors had decided it would not be ethical
to harm my health as the chance of Rebekah rejecting my
kidney was too great. I begged Geoff Koffman to take
my kidney but it was not to be.
I remember driving home absolutely
stunned. That was the closest I have ever come to having a nervous
breakdown. Back home I did not go out of the house for two
days, I just could not face people. But pulling myself together
I returned to work and took just one week out of those three
months paid leave. I clearly remember walking into my year
group's assembly, as I neared the front of the hall a murmur
went round "He's back". My year group had been giving
my stand in a very
time, the headmaster was pleased to have me back. Now, all
these years later, so many of those students who were seated
in that assembly are my Facebook friends and have shown
my family incredible love and support at the time we lost Rebekah.
Rebekah went back on the transplant list.
I took the boys, Peter and Matthew, to
California and Maureen took Rebekah away on holiday in
Somerset, England. While the boys and I were in Disneyland
we got an Aladdin blanket for Beck.
I had driven overnight from Mexico to Los
Angeles, tried to grab some sleep on the sands of Santa
Monica then made an overnight flight home. I was met at
Heathrow by a friend who said, "You are not to worry but
Rebekah had a transplant last night. I will take you
straight to the the hospital."
I replied saying, "Can I go home and have
a bath first."
When I got to Guys Hospital and went to
Rebekah's bedside she smiled and said, "Look Dad my legs are
pink." The new kidney was working.
However, as with the two previous transplants, Rebekah
started to reject this transplant. Doctors took
Maureen and I aside and explained the hope that if they
filtered antibodies from her blood they could stop the
rejection. They explained that this would take away
her immune system and was dangerous, even a cold would be
OurRebekah is all about having fun, doing some
amazing, crazy and often silly things. It is all
about smiling and helping others to smile. As we do
this we will support Ronald McDonald House
Charities as it
puts a loving arm around families with sick children in hospital,
people who are going through some very hard times.
Spend a few moments with
us here, check out our different events then come
and have lots and lots of fun with us.
You are visitor number
to our website. Thank You
for dropping by.
"If she gets a cold you will treat it,"
"That's the point," Doctor Rigden said,
"we could not."
Rebekah was far too young to make a
decision but we knew what she would want. We gave the
family's blessing to lowering Rebekah's immune system to
dangerous levels in a desperate attempt to save the kidney.
McDonald House at Guys Hospital had opened, this was the
first house to open in Britain. It was actually opened by
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Without
Ronald McDonald I do not know how my family could possible
have coped at this difficult time. We can never, ever thank
Ronald for all he did.
Various biopsies were performed to
monitor the kidney.
I was walking towards the lift on the
floor of Guys Tower where Rebekah's ward was located. The
lift doors opened and doctor Susan Rigden came out.
"Good news isn't it ?" Doctor
"What good news ?" I replied.
"Has nobody told you ? The biopsy
result - NO SIGN OF REJECTION !"
had turned the corner but a long road to recovery stretched
ahead of us. We lived, as a family, in Ronald McDonald House
and received incredible support from its organisation.
Guys Hospital ran its own school and
provided child care within its clinics. Rebekah decided she
wanted to follow a career in child care.
Leaving school Rebekah qualified as a
nursery nurse at Milton Keynes College. She went to to add
many further qualifications to her CV.
Originally Rebekah went to work in the
crèche operating within Safeway's Supermarket. When that
crèche closed she went to work in the crèche at The Centre
MK. There she met some special friends who remained friends for the ret of her life.
picture below shows Rebekah with one of those friends
and singer/actor Billy Boyd. The picture was taken at The
Centre MK at one of its many
Rebekah loved these times.
Leaving The Centre MK she joined the
staff of Broughton Manor Preparatory School. She was very
happy there and was greatly respected by her colleagues.
The happiest time of her life came when
Rebekah met Gary. They were married and began a
wonderful life together.
special friends Alison and Jo were the bridesmaids at
Rebekah's wedding but there was an extra bridesmaid. Gary
and Rebekah adopted a rescue dog, Lucy Locket.
There was another dog at the rescue
centre seeking a new home. For weeks Rebekah pestered for
Maureen and I to adopt
Jake. I did not want a dog and kept saying so. Rebekah
did not give up, she constantly brought pictures and was
always saying "Adopt Jake - Adopt Jake"
We gave in, three and a half years ago
Jake came to join our family. We love him to bits and
he loves Maureen and I so much. He and Lucy are
While Rebekah was happy at Broughton
Manor Preparatory School now living in Northampton the
journey was too demanding. She joined the staff at Little
Houghton Day Nursery.
Rebekah had a wonderful life. She and
Gary were the perfect couple.
Gary was a supporter of Sheffield
Wednesday and taught Beck all about football.
Rebekah taught Gary about shopping with a
strong emphasis on buy it now before they sell out.
Rebekah developed a chest complaint which
her immune system just could not fight off. Life then was
not easy but she never lost her smile, Rebekah was always our
Little Miss Sunshine.
Rebekah and our family has always supported Ronald McDonald
Houses. On her birthday
Beck asked friends not to send her a birthday
card but to go to McDonald's and pop a few coins in the
always called her transplanted kidney Louise. Louise was
coming to the end of its life and Rebekah was being prepared for
dialysis. She was being cared for at Milton Keynes Hospital
and Oxford's Churchill Hospital. The level of care she
received was incredible, there is no other word to explain
it. ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE.
Rebekah was weak and did not take to
dialysis. Her body had no strength but her face never lost
its smile. For a month I spent every day
either taking Beck to a clinic appointment or driving to
Oxford to visit her
hospital. She was very unwell.
lost her fight on the morning of Friday 19th May 2017.
We have lost a special friend, daughter,
sister, auntie and wife. We will not see her smile again but
we must keep that smile in our hearts.
It was Rebekah's wish that we continue to
support the work of Ronald McDonald which is where we now
Rebekah's friends set up the OUR REBEKAH
project with a plan to raise one thousand pounds in
Rebekah's memory to help Ronald in his work.
It quickly became the family's plan to honour Rebekah by
getting behind the OUR REBEKAH project and turning one
thousand pounds into ten thousand pounds. We had
Rebekah for thirty-four years, the original target of one
thousand pounds, then ten thousand pounds has changed to
thirty-four thousand pounds, one thousand for each year of
Beck's life. We supported Ronald McDonald House Charities for thirty years
so no plan to continue for another thirty years in Rebekah's
Life dealt Rebekah a very cruel and
unkind hand but that did not stop her smiling. She was
famous for her smile which was infectious. Up and down the
country, in fifteen Ronald McDonald Houses and indeed in three
hundred and sixty-five world wide, families are having a
hard time as they have a child sick in hospital. Our aim is
to take Rebekah's smile and stick it firmly on our own
faces, then to have as much fun as we can raising support
and awareness for the work done by Ronald McDonald House