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I'm in so much pain. . I'm done; Paralympics star, 38, ready for euthanasia.

Byline: TOM PARRY Special Correspondent

MARIEKE Vervoort's determined grimace as she crossed the finishing line became a defining image of the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

Just over a year on, the 38-yearold athlete has said she is in so much pain she cannot go on -and she is ready to die by euthanasia.

The Belgian, who has won one gold, two silver and one bronze Paralympic medals, yesterday revealed she has submitted forms to undergo death by lethal injection after her condition deteriorated.

She is paralysed from her breasts down, is losing her sight, suffers spasms, cannot sleep and can barely eat. s

Belgium's liberal euthanasia laws mean she is likely to be granted her request to die over the coming months.

Three doctors are required to sign off that she was experiencing excruciating pain without a cure.

Interviewed from her hospital bed this week, Marieke said: "I don't want to suffer any more. It's too hard for me now. I get more and more depressed. I never had these feelings before. I cry a lot. A neurologist stayed with me the whole night while I had one spasm after another.

"She said it wasn't an epileptic seizure but just the body screaming, 'I'm in so much pain. I'm done.'"

Marieke was one of the many heroes of the 2012 London Paralympics after picking up the 100m first place in the T52 category.

Her honours also include three gold medals at the 2015 world championships in Doha. She is suffering from a form of progressive tetraplegia that has left doctors mystified.

The debilitating physical condition is also known as quadriplegia and is a comfort in her hospital bed paralysis that takes away the use of all four limbs and the torso.

The problem began in her Achilles, reportedly from a rare deformity between her fifth and sixth cerebral vertebrae.

One of her few comforts is her Labrador Zenn, who is rarely far from her side.

Despite her condition, she retains a sense of humour, mocking Donald Trump and laughing at her dog from her hospital bed in Brussels University Hospital where she is having surgery.

"I'm a Taurus," Marieke added. "If I want something, I go for it. I never give up easily. I didn't want to accept that I would end up in a wheelchair. But in 2000 I couldn't do it any longer.

"I'm paralysed all the way to my breasts. My finger function is going down. I have such a strong heart, but the pain medication is doing nothing any more."

Marieke's father, Jos, has admitted his daughter is "near" as "she can't eat properly". He claimed only her mindset had enabled her to survive for so long.

The athlete's book, The Other Side of the Coin, captured the hearts of the Belgian public. Her fame in the country outshines that of Manchester City footballer Kevin De Bruyne.

With probably days left to live Marieke is heading home to Diest for New Year.

She has left instructions, which include champagne at her wake and the scattering of her ashes in Lanzarote, her "favourite place in the world".

tom.parry@mirror.co.uk

I don't want to suffer any more. It's too hard for me now. I cry a lot MARIEKE VERVOORT on her agonising illness

CAPTION(S):

TOUGH SPIRIT Despite her pain, Marieke has kept a sense of humour

STEEL Olympics final last year

DEVOTION Her loyal pet Zenn brings her comfort in her hospital bed s
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 23, 2017
Words:579
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