Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Renewed Hope for Family as Girls Defy Medical Odds

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Renewed Hope for Family as Girls Defy Medical Odds

Article excerpt

Byline: Katie Dickinson Reporter @KATIEJDICKINSON

PLUNGED into 'total desperation' when their daughters were diagnosed with the same fatal disease 12 months ago, a North East family have entered the new year with fresh hope.

Gail and Matthew Rich, from Throckley, thought they would never recover when they learned both their precious girls had Batten disease within three months of one another.

Nicole was four years old when doctors diagnosed her with the rare genetic disorder which causes progressive deterioration of the brain and nervous system. Her parents were told she was unlikely to make it to her teens.

And their heartbreak was doubled on December 6, 2016.

While on their way to the airport to fly to Lapland after Nicole had been granted a charity Christmas wish, they learned her younger sister Jessica had the same condition.

"In that moment we didn't know how we were ever going to recover," said Gail, 40.

"Thinking about the desperation we felt, we could have just crumbled."

But the couple refused to give up on their little girls and the past 12 months have seen Nicole and Jessica defy the odds to make medical history.

Since last January, Nicole has been receiving pioneering treatment at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital after clinching a place on a trial. And several months later Jessica, now two, became the youngest person in the world to receive the treatment after getting onto a sibling trial in Hamburg, Germany.

Gail and Matthew hope Jessica's early diagnosis will stop her developing full-blown Batten Disease, and recent tests revealed she does not yet have any symptoms.

Gail said: "All eyes are on Jessica and that's why we are full of hope because they are giving her the treatment before the problems have started. …

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