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Test may ease painful future.

Byline: By Julie Cush

A north scientist is to carry out pioneering research into a disorder which can leave children deaf and blind.

Stickler's syndrome attacks the joints and can leave sufferers severely disabled and crippled with arthritis by their early 20s.

Now clinical physiotherapist Kevin Reese has landed a pounds 5,000 grant to try to find a test for the genetic disorder and improve treatment for an estimated 500 sufferers in the North East.

One who could benefit is Michelle Bailey, 25, of South Shields, who is facing an anxious wait to see if her unborn child also has the disorder.

Her daughter Robyn, three, is also a sufferer and Ms Bailey lost her first baby, a son, when he was 14 hours old after complications left him brain damaged. He had the condition, but his death was unrelated.

Ms Bailey, whose baby will be born my caesarean section in two weeks, said: "I was diagnosed late in life and when I was born the doctors thought at first I was blind, deaf and retarded.

"But I have had treatment and live a full life. I have always wanted a family and I although there is a 50/50 chance the baby will be affected it is a risk worth taking.

"I do sometimes feel guilty that I have taken the risk but I lost my first baby and desperately want to complete my family and if there is something wrong we will deal with it.

"I'm delighted someone local is looking into helping people like me and I'm just praying my baby won't be affected."

Mr Reese, based at South Tyneside Hospital, will test the theory that sufferers have overly flexible joints which they wear out leading to arthritis young in life.

He said: "If we can devise a simple test, or reduce someone's medication, it will make a tremendous difference.

"If someone is going to be immobile, but have to give up work at 50 as opposed to 30, then it will help them lead a better quality of life.

"It's nice to know that at the end of all this, what I have done will make a difference to people's lives. If it helps just one person, then it will have been worth it."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 12, 2003
Words:379
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