Brave Lea defies the odds

BRAVE little Lea Clarke was not expected to survive when she developed severe problems early in her life, but aged three the plucky youngster is proving an inspiration to her doting parents.

BRAVE little Lea Clarke was not expected to survive when she developed severe problems early in her life, but aged three the plucky youngster is proving an inspiration to her doting parents.

Lea was born a healthy baby at Colchester General Hospital along with her twin sister, Abbi. But while Abbi had no disabilities, parents Jo and Jon Clarke, from Lawford, near Manningtree, noticed that Lea was having difficulties.

Their baby's hands started to twitch when she was just eight weeks old, and later on she would start to fit.

Lea, who was referred by her GP to a paediatrician, deteriorated and was treated with epilepsy drugs, which the family say failed to help.

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The youngster started to suffer up to 100 fits a day and her family feared she would not survive. She would spend months being treated at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, Colchester hospital and Guy's Hospital in London.

Lea would fit, be unable to swallow food, was registered blind and scans revealed that she had suffered cerebral atrophy, essentially meaning her brain had shrunk.

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Mrs Clarke, who cares full-time for her children, said: “When the girls were born all was fine, but she had her first fit and she went from bad to worse.

“At one point she was suffering from 70 to 100 fits a day and very nearly did not make it, no-one thought she would make it. But she pulled through.”

Lea has suffered all sorts of complications in her young life, including pneumonia, chest problems, being unable to swallow properly and needing an operation to stop her stomach rejecting food.

Her parents, both 31, said they were extremely proud of her and, although they accept she will not live to an old age, love her to bits.

Mrs Clarke, who has three children with her husband, an account handler, said: “The best the doctors could tell us was that Lea would not die today, and after that it was not looking positive, but she could turn a corner. Lea does have a short life expectancy.

“But Lea is special and everyone who knows her is absolutely amazed by her. I am so proud of her, as we are of all our children. People say it must be so hard, but we never view it that way. All our children our individuals and all have their separate needs.

“We feel so honoured to have Lea in our lives. People still brush disability under the carpet, but we celebrate her. We have the most amazing child and she is inspiring so many people, that really is amazing. We don't see anything wrong with her.”

Lea has been receiving therapy with Advance, the Institute for Advanced Neuromotor Rehabilitation, a charity registered with the Government's Healthcare Commission.

Her therapy there has helped her enormously, including helping her to eat normally, putting a smile back on her face.

Her plight has touched the hearts of the Regal Riders Motorcycle Club, who have organised a fun day event at Stowmarket to raise money for her ongoing care.

Michael Drewery, a Felixstowe butcher who is chairman of the club, said: “She is having some amazing treatment which is giving her back her quality of life. It's great to be able to help children who are not as lucky as those of us who enjoy good health.''

Motorcyclists will leave the Pickerel Inn, Stowmarket, at 10am tomorrow riding to Woodbridge before returning for about 1.30pm. There will then be live bands and barbecue at the pub during the fun day.

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