Two remarkable siblings who have been caring for their seriously-ill mum for years have been acknowledged as young stars of the borough.
Jessica Smith and her brother Joshua have looked after their mother Kim since they were 16 and 11.
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Kim first became ill after she had a rare liver tumour and bled out in intensive care a week after the operation.
She has since had to have surgery after surgery, including five knee replacements, and some days cannot even get out of bed at her home in Leigh.
Jessica and Joshua, now 22 and 17, have stepped up and done everything needed to keep the household going, from everyday tasks in the kitchen to keeping track of their mum’s medication and creating adaptations such as a modified couch.
The duo were recognised as Young Volunteers of the Year at the recent Our Stars awards at the DW Stadium and Kim says she is immensely proud of what they have done.
She said: “If it wasn’t for these two there would be no point in anything. That upsets them but it shouldn’t because I would never leave them on their own.
“I love them more than life itself. They are my world. It scares me that in the future someone else will be doing the caring, I’m used to these two doing it all. They know me better than anybody.
“They should be nothing but proud of what they have done. They are amazing.”
Jessica and Joshua had to take over the caring role in 2012 about a week after Kim came home from hospital.
Having to do the shopping, washing, cooking and all the other duties of a family of four was a shock at first, but they soon settled into the role despite having a very different life to other teenagers.
Joshua said: “The transition period was hard for both of us, Suddenly all the responsibility came down to us two.
“It was hard because we were both moving school too: I was starting high school and Jessica was leaving.
“I remember going to school every day with the packed lunches she had made and her walking the dogs to school to pick me up.
“Once you’ve grown up doing the physical side it feels like a normal life to you.”
Jessica said: “No-one else was going to do the caring so it was just get on with it. I had been doing some of it before anyway and I had looked after Joshua when mum was in hospital.
“It’s the mental side of it that can be really draining. Some days I come home and mum is sat there crying.”
Joshua in particular has been supported by Wigan and Leigh Young Carers, which offers mentoring support and regular respite activities.
The siblings’ caring duties, though, are coming to an end as Jessica is a student nurse and Joshua hopes to study at Huddersfield University.