Fundraising for brave teenager

WHEN Olivia McCarthy was just 17 months old she was struck down by a mystery illness that has left her needing 24 hour care.

Craig Robinson

WHEN Olivia McCarthy was just 17 months old she was struck down by a mystery illness that has left her needing 24 hour care.

One day she was a healthy toddler - the next she was fighting for her life in the intensive care unit of Guy's Hospital in London.

Now aged 13 the courageous youngster and her parents Chris and Julie, who live in St John's Road, Saxmundham, are no closer to finding out what caused the brain injury that left her so severely disabled.

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Olivia, who attends Warren School in Lowestoft, has to use a wheelchair, is registered blind, suffers from epilepsy and is fed through a tube.

Her loving family are determined to give her the best life possible and are now fundraising in a bid to buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle so that trips away from home are made easier.

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A similar effort when Olivia was two-years-old raised thousands of pounds for a special soft room so she could play in safety.

Mrs McCarthy, who has just launched her own catering business, said: “We are so grateful for the support we have received - the community have been fantastic.

“Olivia is nearly 14 now and she has started to get curvature of the spine. We want to try and raise money towards a wheelchair accessible car, which could cost up to �30,000.

“We have tried a few charities but they have been unable to help. At the moment I have to lift her out of the wheelchair and strap her in to the back of the car we have. However I'm only 5ft 2in and Olivia is getting heavy so it's a bit of a struggle.

“Ideally we'd like to get a vehicle where we can put the wheelchair straight in without taking Olivia out and strap her in safely in the correct position.”

Mrs McCarthy said her husband, a 53-year-old civil servant, discovered their daughter grey and lifeless in July 1997 when he went to get her out of bed.

She was originally taken to Ipswich Hospital but was transferred to Guy's Hospital in London where she spent eight weeks in intensive care before returning to Heath Road.

“They tested her for everything but it all came back negative,” Mrs McCarthy, 48, said. “They have put it down to an unknown virus or a metabolic condition - something genetic that she inherited. But they're still not sure.”

Friends of Mr and Mrs McCarthy, who moved to Saxmundham seven years ago after living in Trent Road, Ipswich, are holding a fundraising disco and barbecue at Sizewell Sports and Social Club on Saturday at 7.30pm.

There will also be a raffle with 75 prizes including a day at the races for two, a hamper worth �100, a three day mid week break in Aldeburgh and bottles of wine and champagne.

Organiser Clarissa Wright said: “When we first met Olivia we fell in love with her. Despite all her problems she is a very content and happy little girl. Ideally we'd like to raise around �10,000 but hopefully that will just be the beginning.”

Tickets for the fundraising disco - priced �5 for adults and �2 for children over five - are still available from Mrs Wright on 01728 604177 or people can turn up on the night.

Anyone wanting to donate can send a cheque payable to the Wheels for Olivia Appeal Fund to the Ipswich Building Society, 10 High Street, Saxmundham, IP17 1DD.

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