Supercharged Superhero, by Gemma Everson, is a moving true story about one little girl and her super energetic, superhero Dad whose battery suddenly and unexplainably becomes broken and will not fully recharge.
The rhyming story explains their journey through change, loss, grief, despair, acceptance, readjustment and hope as they come to terms with her father’s condition.
Primary school teacher Gemma wrote the story after her husband Tom was given a diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E/CFS) in early 2018.
“I set out to write a story to help my daughter process what was happening to her daddy," said Gemma.
"It became apparent soon after that this story was actually relevant to so many other families who are dealing with a range of issues such as chronic illness, mental health disorders, physical injury and much more.
"Invisible illness and fatigue can be devastating but this offers a new path to acceptance and hope.
"I truly believe this story has the potential to help so many people and I am delighted to be able to share it.”
The need for a new story
In the summer of 2017 Tom, a Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer, completed a gruelling 1,000 mile bike ride from Lands’ End to John O’Groats in just five days.
He returned from this ride full of pride and sense of achievement but the family were soon to realise that something was terribly wrong.
Over a period of seven months, Tom became more and more fatigued to the point he was practically bed bound, unable to do anything more than shower before his body ‘crashed’ into exhaustion and he would crawl back to bed for days on end.
Not only was Tom experiencing this sudden and harrowing change to his life but their two girls, Georgia and Gracie were just three years and seven months old.
Georgia particularly found it difficult to deal with the loss of her fun and energetic superhero daddy and could not understand why he was unable to do all of the things they had once enjoyed.
Bike rides in the park, family swims and ‘rough and tumble’ were all suddenly a distant memory.
After seven months, Gemma found she could not keep telling her daughter daddy was poorly.
Georgia knew straightforward illness should not last this long and she started to grow anxious and confused, often suggesting ways to make daddy better.
Gemma decided she needed a new story and after struggling to find anything online that fit the bill, Supercharged Superhero was born.
This powerful story changed everything for the family.
Suddenly, although Tom was still struggling physically, Georgia was given the language and understanding to help her accept things had changed and move forward with this new version of her dad.
Together, they learned to have fun together in different ways and slow down and appreciate the small things in life.
Although Gemma initially wrote the book to help Georgia cope with her dad's diagnosis, she was encouraged by others who read it and related to its themes.
Many of them were parents of young carers who wished they had the story at the time their circumstances changed.
“Here’s a book that will help children feel comfortable in their own skin – even if the illness is making their ‘Supercharged Hero’ feel super-pooped most of the time," said Tony Britton from the M.E. Association.
"In the M.E. worlds, we’ve been waiting for such a book for years.”
Sarah Payne, who has M.E./CFS and POTS, said: “Supercharged Superhero captures so beautifully the loss associated with living with ME/CFS but also the life that can be maintained with love and true understanding from family and friends.
"If this little girl can grasp that it’s the little things in life that matter and make us all ‘Superheroes’, then hopefully adults can too.
"A much needed and appreciated book for the whole family representing those of us who struggle with chronic illness every day."
Liz Carter, who has bronchiectasis and is the author of Catching Contentment, said: "In Supercharged Superhero, Gemma Everson has created a world which will bring both joy and comfort.
"The words and the illustrations shine out with a charm that will touch everyone who reads this story about a little girl and her daddy who suddenly finds his battery depleted.
"Anyone who lives with chronic illness in their family will find this book a helpful resource to encourage young children talk about what they are going though, while leaving them with a sense of hope in the midst of what can be great difficulty."
Hasler Naval Service Recovery Centre
Tom has spent 18 months at the Hasler Naval Service Recovery Centre in Plymouth.
He has made some progress there both cognitively and physically.
Tom may never recover fully but as a family they are grateful to the staff there who have equipped him with the tools he needs.
He is likely to be medically discharged from the Royal Navy next summer and he hopes to transition into a new career in IT.
The illustrators of the book are family friends Hope Gwilliam and Becky Rawlins.
They are graduates in surface pattern design from Staffordshire University and directors of Hopefully Made, an eco-friendly company specialising in hand screen printed gifts.
They are both talented artists who are passionate about children’s picture books and aspire to become professional children’s illustrators.
This is their first project and Gemma is delighted with how they have perfectly captured her family’s story.
To find out more about the book and order your copy visit gemmaeverson.com.