A FAMILY left devastated when their precious daughter was diagnosed with a rare and potentially life-threatening condition today launched a fundraising drive to help get her to America for pioneering treatment.
Pretty Georgia Hart lived a relatively normal and healthy life until routine checks revealed she was suffering with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA) - a progressive, inherited disease that attacks and damages the central nervous system resulting in co-ordination and balance problems.
The currently incurable illness - which affects just one in 50,000 people - has also left brave Georgia with painful curvature of the spine, severe fatigue, and also on daily medication to prevent heart disease.
Her symptoms could get progressively worse as she gets older.
The High Tunstall College of Science pupil takes at least 10 tablets a day, and has regular appointments with heart, spine, eyes, and bone specialists, and weekly physiotherapy treatment.
Today, Georgia’s loving parents Bev and Geoffrey Hart, and staff and pupils at her school, kicked off a fundraising campaign, which coincides with the school’s awards evening tonight at which her illness will be spoken about.
Together they hope the drive - which her pals have nicknamed “Save a Hart” - will raise £30,000 to enable Georgia to take part in clinical trials in America where more is known about the condition.
And any extra cash that is raked in will be donated to FA UK - a British charity which is carrying out research into the condition.
Bev, 50, head of business development at New College Durham, said: “When we were told about Georgia’s condition it was just absolute devastation.
“I don’t know how to put into words how we felt. I think it’s particularly hard when you have a child who has never had any health problems and then this is thrown at you.”
Bev, from Naisberry Park, Hartlepool, added: “From diagnosis, Georgia took the mind-set that this is what I’ve got and life goes on, and that’s where our strength comes from.
“How can her dad and I not deal with it when the person who’s most affected by it is saying ‘let’s just get on with life’.”
And smiling Georgia - who is just a normal teenager and loves popstar Jessie J and band You Me At Six - told the Mail: “When we got back from the hospital after I’d been told I went out straight away just to think.
“I was upset, but I was more upset because my mum was. I’ve just got used to the idea now and I’m used to it. I used to hate going to the hospital but I just go now.”
And Georgia, who also has a half-brother Daniel, 29, is well prepared for clinical trials in the US which would take place early next year.
Bev, who is married to Geoff, 50, a retired police officer, said: “Clinical trials are the way forward in terms of trying to find a cure ultimately, but certainly to improve and prevent any further damage.
“We’d obviously try anything that is going to help her.”
Mark Tilling, head teacher at High Tunstall, added: “We want to do as much as we can to help Georgia who is a great pupil who’s attitude to her school work has never faltered throughout all of this.”
And in a bid to help, Mr Tilling is urging anyone who wants to donate funds, or carry out fundraising activities for Georgia, to contact the school on (01429) 261446.
The Hart family have also set up a secure online page where donations can be made at http://www.shareagift.com/giftpageforgeorgiahart