Princess bids for Pride of Hartlepool crown

Natalie Wood and James Espley with their daughter Saphere-Jae Espley. Picture by FRANK REID
Natalie Wood and James Espley with their daughter Saphere-Jae Espley. Picture by FRANK REID

SHE is the little girl who is always smiling in the face of adversity.

But now, three-year-old Saphere-Jae Espley from Hartlepool may have extra reason to be happy because she is in the running for a Pride of Hartlepool award.

The “brave little princess” is thought to be the only person in the world to suffer from both a brain tumour and kidney disorder which causes the kidneys to leak large amounts of protein into the urine and causes her body to fill with fluid.

Proud parents Natalie Wood, 27, and James Espley, 24, are Saphere-Jae’s full time carers.

Natalie, also mum to Brandon, 10, Latoniah, six, and Lennon-Jake, five, nominated her daughter for a Child of Courage award and said: “I think my little girl is one in a million.

“She is such a brave, amazing little girl who smiles and tells us everything is going to be okay. She is such a brave little princess.”

Natalie said: “She was a healthy little girl up until two month after her second birthday. She started swelling up.”

In the first few weeks after diagnosis, Saphere-Jae had to have two stones of fluid drained from her at James Cook Hospital, in Middlesbrough.

Then just a month later she was rushed to Newcastle’s RVI hospital where it was found she had the brain tumour.

Surgeons managed to reduce the size of it by 90 per cent after operating, and a recent scan showed it had not grown.

But she now has to undergo brain scans every few weeks as medics keep an extra close eye on the tumour as a result of her being on the new kidney medication.

Natalie added: “My baby girl is still fighting. No matter how poorly she is, she never moans or complains. She always has a big smile on her little face even though she is only three and she has to deal with so many changes.”

Saphere-Jae is now added to an impressive list of entrants but we want more.

We are calling on our readers to nominate that special person or people who have done something that you believe deserves recognition.

You have until early March to put forward your favourites. Let’s make this a record year for entry numbers with your help.

Fill in the nomination form below or visit and complete it online.