Why Liam will tackle Great North Run
By Lisa CleverdonFIVE years ago, teenager Liam Byrne's life was turned upside down when he discovered he had liver disease.As if that was not enough to cope with, the youngster then only narrowly escaped paralysis when he unknowingly broke his back in five places.
By Lisa Cleverdon
FIVE years ago, teenager Liam Byrne's life was turned upside down when he discovered he had liver disease.
As if that was not enough to cope with, the youngster then only narrowly escaped paralysis when he unknowingly broke his back in five places.
But he fought back and next month the 17-year-old hopes to help others like him by taking part in a gruelling 13-mile run for charity.
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Liam, who lives in Fornham St Martin with his mum, Tracey, was just 12 years old when hospital doctors revealed he was suffering from autoimmune hepatitis.
"My eyes had started to look yellow, so I was sent to hospital for tests and that's when I found out I had liver disease," he said.
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"I was shocked at the time because apparently it is quite rare for young boys to have the condition, but I was put on medication and I just tried to get on with things the best that I could."
The disease, which normally affects women between the ages of 15 and 40, causes a sufferer's immune system to attack their liver, causing inflammation and liver cell death.
Liam, who is now studying social care at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds, was put on a high dose of steroids that led to problems no-one could have prepared him for.
"I kept hearing cracks in my back when I bent down and I was in quite a lot of pain. The doctors told me I had stiff muscles, but then around six weeks later my mum demanded I had an x-ray and I discovered my bones had crumbled and I actually had five broken vertebrae," he said.
"The physiotherapists had been planning to work on my back to try to loosen the stiff muscles, but I've been told that if they had, I could have been paralysed."
Liam spent the next 10 weeks in hospital recovering from his ordeal, but never dreamt that just four years later he would be preparing for yet another challenge – the Great North Run, which takes place in Newcastle on September 18.
"It was advertised on the Children's Liver Disease Foundation website and I thought it would be nice to raise some money to help other children going through the same thing as me," he said.
"I'm not really a very sporty person so I have been running every day to try to get fit, which has been a bit of a challenge.
"Although I will be on medication for the rest of my life and I have bouts of illness, in some ways I do feel I am lucky because my back has healed.
"I never thought I would be doing a 13-mile run, but although I am nervous, I am looking forward to it at the same time."
Anyone wishing to sponsor Liam can contact Sarah Briggs, at the Children's Liver Disease Foundation, on 0121 212 3839.