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How brittle Millie broke our hearts; HEALTH: Firefighters rush to help kids with brittle bones after being moved by plight.

Byline: By Alison Dayani HEALTH CORRESPONDENT

BRITTLE-boned Millie Potter may be as fragile as a china doll but she has brought burly firefighters to their knees.

The four-year-old's strength in coping with her rare condition has inspired them to help other delicate patients at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Crews at Coleshill Fire Station were so taken with Millie, they raised pounds 2,000 towards huge dolls that medics use to explain to children how brittle bones affect the body.

Millie only has to fall out of bed or trip over in the playground to fracture a bone.

Mum Karen Potter said Millie was only five months old when diagnosed with the illness, which affects one in every 10,000 babies. "Millie has broken her shin, femur, toes, you name it," said housewife Karen, who also has an 18-month-old son Charlie with delivery driver husband Carl.

"She broke her foot last month because her brother pushed her off a stool to look at the snow."

Karen, aged 34, added: "I was devastated when Millie was diagnosed. Every time she breaks a bone, it's heartbreaking, especially when she has a nasty fracture.

I feel like she should be wrapped up in cotton wool, but you can't."

Millie, a pupil at Guardian Angels Catholic Primary School in Shard End, is already starting to become more aware of how fragile her body is with help from hospital occupational therapist Maureen Groom.

Maureen, who came up with the idea of using dolls aiding burns patients to also explain brittle bones, said: "We use the dolls on wards and take them out to schools to show why brittle bones patients must be more careful and can't always do things other children do.

These children are extra fragile and so they spend a lot of time in hospital. Some break one bone a year, others can have 18 fractures in that time."

Firefighters who met Millie's family said they were happy to be helping other youngsters. Crew manager Johnny Giles said: "We have done everything from discos to race nights to raise this money for children like Millie after seeing what a special little girl she is."

The Potter family has also donated pounds 100 to the fund set up following the deaths of four firefighters in Atherstone-on-Stour.

"I feel like she should be wrapped up in cotton wool

CAPTION(S):

OUR HERO... Millie with, left, firefighter Johnny Giles, dad Carl and mum Karen. Photo ref: NP190208Britt-3; LIVING DOLL... Millie Potter with a life-size doll, paid for by firefighters, which is used for explaining brittle bones to children. Pictures: Neil Pugh Photo ref: NP190208Britt-2
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Feb 20, 2008
Words:436
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