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Buggy lifeline for Farsley girl, six, with rare form of dementia

A Farsley six-year-old with a rare form of childhood dementia can attend vital brain treatments and make magical memories with her family before she goes blind – thanks to a new specialist buggy.

Connie Annakin was diagnosed with Battens Disease aged three, and over the previous months had developed seizures while losing the ability to walk or talk.

Devastatingly, her parents Caroline and Rob were told most diagnosed with the condition pass away between the ages of six and ten.

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Although there is no cure, her parents were told of a revolutionary treatment that could halt the regression of most of her abilities, but it wasn’t available on the NHS. Caroline fought the ruling and won, allowing Connie to have the enzyme treatment for five years, administered at hospital through a port in her brain twice a month. 

But travelling to treatments – or anywhere – was made difficult by the basic wheelchair Connie had, which had become too small, didn’t support her head, or recline so she could sleep or keep her comfortable during seizures.

In desperation her family applied for an equipment grant to Newlife, the Charity for Disabled Children, the leading national charity providing specialist equipment and support to disabled and terminally ill children.

Having the right equipment at the right time to meet a disabled or terminally ill child’s needs is why Newlife provides a unique emergency equipment loans service, Play Therapy Pod, on 12-week loans packed with toys, and a nurse-led helpline to support families on a range of issues.

Now, thanks to Newlife, Connie has a safe and comfortable specialist buggy to attend medical appointments in and have as many visual experiences as possible, before her sight fades completely.

Mum Caroline said: “The buggy Newlife helped provide has been life changing.

“The enzyme treatment is working well, and we are hopeful it will stop her developing further disabilities, but it can’t give her back what has been lost, so she needs the right specialist buggy to go anywhere safely.

“The treatment can’t halt her loss of sight either, as it can’t cross the blood-retina barrier, so having this buggy is vital to see as many different things, such as the ocean and Christmas lights.

“Connie can no longer tell the difference between day and night, so it’s imperative she can recline to be able to sleep whenever she needs to, as lack of sleep can trigger more seizures, but her old wheelchair couldn’t do this.

“Hospital visits for treatments were also really difficult with the old wheelchair – it was uncomfortable for Connie and wasn’t very secure, there was no head support and she would bounce in it as we went along. It was just awful.

“The tyres on the buggy can handle all terrains and the buggy even has weather proofing we can use which makes a huge difference. Now we can go anywhere we want and give her all those great experiences and live in the moment so we can make memories.”

The buggy is providing the family with a real lifeline.

“Connie is currently having two seizures a day where she cries and screams, each lasting around four hours,” Caroline added. “We recently had to call the paramedics and when they saw her buggy they said it was perfect as they didn’t know if any beds were available, and it meant she could safely rest while she waited. With this buggy we know she is safe wherever she is. What Newlife has done for us is amazing.”

Kamaljit Dulai, Newlife Child and Family Support Manager, said: “We are thrilled Connie now has the right equipment to meet all of her needs. Being safe, comfortable, secure and supported will help her and her family have the best quality of life possible.

“Without Newlife thousands of disabled children, many of whom have reached crisis point, would be living in pain, unsafe, unable to do the things that we all take for granted and denied the opportunity to reach their potential, but we are committed to helping, and actively campaigning for, disabled children and their families to receive the equipment and support they need, whatever their situation.”

Newlife has been helping disabled and terminally ill children across the UK for more than 30 years. Call the Newlife Nurse helpline on 0800 902 0095 between 10am and 4.30pm, free from mobiles and landlines, Monday to Friday, with an answerphone facility outside of normal hours.

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