Doting mum Jodie's PS15,000 fundraising mission ...so she can see the little boy [...].
DOTING mum Jodie Hardwick knows all about life in a wheelchair - she's used one since she was 11. She's even learned to cope with Freidreich's ataxia, a muscle-wasting condition which causes progressive damage to the nervous system, and which she was diagnosed with when she was 16. In 2010, she married steelworker Craig and the couple have two children they dote on - five-year-old Rhys, and Craig's daughter Sian. But with Jodie's condition deteriorating in the past couple of years, and her eyesight failing, she can only now see Teesville Primary School pupil Rhys in silhouette. And that's the main driving force behind a mission to raise funds to get her to China for stem cell treatment which may slow, or even partially reverse, her sight loss. Jodie was a lively little girl - the only girl in nursery who could ride a bike without stabilisers and always on the go. But when, aged seven, she contracted measles, things started to go wrong. M u m Michelle remembers: "Her sister Kimberley had the measles at the same time and she was fine afterwards but Jodie was a bit doddery and wobbly, falling over a lot like she had two left feet." She was diagnosed with rare genetic muscle-wasting disorder Roussy Levy Syndrome. And by the time she was 11, she was in a wheelchair and has remained so ever since, although her diagnosis was changed to Friedreich's ataxia when she was 16. Life hasn't been easy, yet Jodie and her family have coped - but things have worsened in the past couple of years. Michelle said: "In the last few years, her eyesight, hearing and speech have deteriorated badly. "There was a slow deterioration and then, all of a sudden, it just accelerated." Jodie, now 29, of The Larches, Teesville, has a winning smile but admits her situation can leave her feeling "pretty miserable." "I didn't expect any of this," says Jodie in speech which is, understandably, slow and laboured. "The kids want to do stuff and I can't." Michelle says specialists in England have been unable to offer any solutions or treatment - "they just say 'if anything comes up, we'll bear her in mind' but they've been saying that since she was 12." But after research by Jodie's sister Julie Allport, the family has found a hospital in China - the Shixin Hospital in Dongguan - claiming to offer stem cell treatment which, while not offering a cure, could slow the disease's progress and even bring back some of Jodie's sight, hearing and muscle function. With PS15,000 to raise by December, they know it's an uphill task - but it's one they're prepared to take on. They've set up a JustGiving page and raised nearly PS1,000 at the weekend collecting at Morrisons in Berwick Hills, Middlesbrough. An emotional Michelle said: "The hospital in China has donew this treatment on people with similar conditions who've regained some sight and speech, as well as having slightly better muscle control. "We just hope she gets some sight back more than anything so she can see her son again. "It's not a cure but if anything can improve her quality of life, we have to try for it. "If it works, absolutely brilliant. We're willing to try anything before it's too late." Jodie said: "We mentioned to Rhys I might be going to China and he said 'no, I'll miss you too much'. Then we said it might help mammy get a little better and he said, 'oh, OK then!' "I just want to be able to see Rhys and do normal stuff again." Visit www.gofundme.com/2tkcv4s