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BLINDTOT'S CHINA TRIP FOR SIGHT OP; Town's kindness gives Amelia new hope.

Byline: TOM GILMORE

DEVOTED J Mum Justyna holds Amelia close ahead of their trip to China A BLIND Irish toddler flew out to China yesterday for ground-breaking stem-cell treatment which could give her the gift of sight.

Amelia Filipcak from Tuam, Co Galway, has been blind since birth and only has light perception.

Her kind-hearted hometown raised EUR50,000 for her to be sent to China for the life-changing surgery.

The 21-month-old girl's operation would not have been possible without the support of friends and neighbours.

Amelia's Polish-born parents Justyna and Lukasz, who moved to Tuam five years ago, said they have been astounded by the generosity shown to them.

Dad Lukasz said: "We can never thank people enough for all they have done for us by raising the money to enable Amelia go to China for this treatment."

THANKFUL

"Unfortunately our savings would be only a drop in the ocean and it means so much to us as a family that people here have given our daughter a chance of a better life.

"If Amelia gets the gift of sight we will be the happiest parents in the world."

Lukasz added that his brother and his wife in Poland have sent them two suitcases, which they have packed already for the 26-hour plane journey.

He also revealed how his daughter is suffering from hypotonia and optic nerve hypoplasia, or ONH.

The condition means Amelia's muscle tone is low and as her deep reflexes are poor, which will stop her walking on her own as well as preventing development of her optic nerves.

Their only hope of her getting sight, and the ability to walk, is by having the costly stem-cell transplants in the Beike medical facility in Qingdao, China.

Justyna said: "Only stem cells can help her optic nerves grow and give her sight. The people who did the fundraising and those who supported the campaign did everything for us and we are so grateful to everybody especially Cllr Michael Connolly, who was chairman, and every committee member who worked so hard to raise the money dad Lukasz for the trip to China." Lukasz said his employers Valeo have also been very good in supporting the campaign and in giving him leave from work for the trip to China.

The family have been told it will be 33 days after the treatment before doctors in China can analyse if progress has been made.

If they are satisfied with the results, they can give Amelia more stem-cell treatment, which means a total stay of 38 days.

Many procedures for eye problems similar to those experienced by Amelia have already taken place in China.

Adult stem-cells, which are sourced from bone marrow or the umbilical cord, can help repair and regenerate damaged cells.

HYPOTONIA Hypotonia and optic nerve hypoplasia means Amelia has poor muscle tone - affecting movement reflexes and sight

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HOPEFUL Amelia's dad Lukasz
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Feb 3, 2011
Words:485
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