Meet the teenage girl who went viral after sitting her exams in hospital

Gabriella Boyd laying in hospital bed while getting treatment for her bowel condition
Gabriella Boyd, 16, in a hospital bed while getting treatment for her bowel condition (credit: Gabriella Boyd)

This week marks the end of the GCSE exams, when millions of teenagers across the UK sat in packed-out school halls alongside their peers to try and get their best marks. But that experience has been very different for 16-year-old Gabriella Boyd, who had to go through that rite of passage in a room all on her own while an inpatient at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Gabriella, from south-east London, lives with a condition called gastroschisis, a birth defect that occurs when a child's abdomen does not develop fully in the womb. As a result, she’s been in and out of hospital wards since she was a baby.

Gabriella went viral last month after she shared a video on TikTok using the popular #GRWM (Get Ready With Me) hashtag, which is normally used to showcase a beauty routine before a night out or seeing friends. Gabriella’s video showed her waking up at 4.30am to “get ready” for some biology revision. The video has since gained 6 million views.

Yahoo News spoke with Gabriella who told us about her condition and what a "normal" school day is like in hospital - particularly when trying to sit exams.

Gabriella Boyd stood with her mum Virginia, her dad Alex and her younger brother Severo.
Gabriella Boyd stood with her mum Virginia, her dad Alex and her younger brother Severo.

Gabriella's condition

Gabriella's mum out her unborn baby daughter was suffering from gastroschisis - which affects roughly 1 in 3000 babies each year - when she had an ultrasound close to her due date in 2008.

Virginia, who is now 49, was told her daughter would need surgery that had a 95% success rate. Unfortunately, there were complications and Gabriella was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster hospital, where she stayed until she was five.

Since then, she has been in and out of the hospital dozens of times.

Gabriella’s most recent admission came in February this year. She sometimes works at the family-owned restaurant, Kumquat, in Tunbridge Wells with her dad, Alex, 45, and her 13-year-old brother, Severo. Though Gabriella and her brother performed on their violins for Chinese New Year events at the restaurant, the symptoms linked to her gastroschisis had returned and days later she was back in a hospital bed.

Gabriella had to have surgery to remove some of the built-up scar tissue around her bowels, which doctors thought was causing her severe pain, but unfortunately, it didn’t fix the problem.

She told Yahoo: “My stomach got so bloated - I literally looked about six months' pregnant when I woke up every day. It was not good.” Following the procedure, she was told there was a “large area of dilated bowels”, which required more surgery. But she decided to delay it by a month in order to sit some of her GCSEs. Doctors, nurses, and her parents tried to persuade her to change her mind, but she was keen on sitting at least some of her exams. And as she had just turned 16 in March, she signed her own consent form.

Boyd had the operation and posted a video on TikTok afterwards, giving a thumbs-up while lipsyncing to a popular audio.

“I've got loads of support around me,” she says. “Obviously, it is just sad to say, it is just another one of those things that just happen.”

Keeping up her routine every day is a big help, whether through practising self-care like skincare or yoga and journaling. One of Gabriella’s favourite influencers is 22-year-old wellness content creator Fernanda Ramirez, who has gained 1.4 million followers by posting videos.

However, there are times when she starts to feel down. “There would be days where I feel like, “Out of ‘everyone, why me?’ but then the therapists I have here really helped me through that. So we talk about my medical condition and surgeries I've had.” Plus, her family encourages her to maintain a positive mindset. “Gabby is a very positive girl. I always teach her to be positive, keep her chin up, and keep going,” Virginia says.

Gabriella Boyd's morning routine went viral with three million views. (Credit: Gabriella Boyd / TikTok)
Gabriella Boyd's morning routine went viral with three million views. (Credit: Gabrielle Boyd / TikTok)

A ‘normal’ school day

Gabriella’s school day has not been like many others her age. To start with, she had to take lessons inside the hospital.

The Chelsea Community Hospital School teaches paediatric patients between the ages of 4 and 18. Gabriella says that, as patients, they are offered the option to take time out and rest to recover instead of going to school. As her GCSEs got closer, Gabriellas ays she was ‘encouraged’ to attend lessons to prepare for her exams.

While her viral video showed Gabriella waking up to start revising at 5am, that isn't her usual routine. She normally gets up between 7am and 9am when her IV pump - called total parenteral nutrition (TPN) - comes just in time for breakfast as nurses observe her. Gabrielle says she hasn’t been able to eat a lot and hasn’t had an appetite for about three weeks. “It took me nearly two hours to finish a quarter of a meal - it was crazy,” she says.

After that, she attends the hospital school at 10:30am before a break for lunch at 12:30. Unlike many hospital food detractors, Gabriella says it isn’t that bad - when she is able to eat. “Today, for lunch, I ordered macaroni cheese with cauliflower. For dinner, I've ordered a chicken cheese bacon bake with vegetables and mashed potato and chocolate cake custard.” It’s then into afternoon lessons before the school day ends at 3 pm.

Boyd's room at the hospital has been decorated with cards of support. (Credit: Gabriella Boyd)
Boyd's room at the hospital has been decorated with cards of support. (Credit: Gabriella Boyd)

Exam time

Gabriella's version of an exam room is on the hospital's second floor, which she describes as a ‘glass shed’ with a round table and comfortable chairs. She has access arrangements that allow her a break. “I know the invigilator quite well,” she says. “So then when we are having our little sort of break, we just chat and it's just, it just doesn't feel like an exam.”

She describes herself as academic and artistic, while her grades are typically 7s, 8s, and 9s - the equivalent of A, A*, and A**. She sings and is able to play the violin. She is bright and attended Newstead Wood School, a selective girls’ grammar school in Orpington, Kent. She went to her secondary school’s final day to say bye to her friends and teachers. She said: “I painted on my leavers shirt and everything. It was just a really nice day. I literally spent the whole day signing shirts.”

‘Gabby deserves better’

Her family comes to visit her often, and recently, her grandparents made the trip from Hong Kong. Her mum said she comes every Monday to Wednesday, but on the other days, the restaurant gets very busy.

Gabriella Boyd with her grandparents from Hong Kong.
Gabriella Boyd with her grandparents from Hong Kong. (Credit: Gabriella Boyd)

Speaking to Yahoo, her mum choked up while talking about the struggle that her marriage and her daughter have gone through, saying, “Gabby deserves better.” She said, “It's not a normal thing for a little girl who's been through so much.”

“It's really tough”, she says, while acknowledging she has learned how to be stronger from her daughter.

“Just suddenly, like Gabby, we've become another level of human.”

Like many girls her age, Gabriella is also a Swiftie, and her parents got her tickets to see pop megastar this summer. Her mum said: “We bought her a special gift, she wants to see Taylor Swift. Our family is unlucky but also very lucky that we can afford to keep her happy.”

Gabriella next plans to go to sixth form to study for her A Levels: "I am going to be taking politics, economics, classics and French, and I'm gonna drop French after Christmas. I’m doing it just because I like the subject.” After that, the dream is to become her own boss and set up her own business.