A Hartlepool man is facing a race against time as he fights an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.
Dad of five, Eric Thomson, needs to raise £23,000 for pioneering treatment in Mexico after receiving a date.
Mr Thomson, 49, who is battling Primary Progressive MS – a form of the condition for which there is no treatment in this country - has been given the date June 20 to undergo treatment.
Mr Thomson and his family, of Jowitt Road, Hartlepool, are delighted at getting the date for a stem cell operation but now face raising the remainder of the £35k needed to pay for it.
His wife Joanne said the operation, if successful, could see him return to work. She added: “We are absolutely over the moon to get a date for the operation. Eric’s MS has progressed a little bit over the last few weeks so the sooner he gets it the better. It’s about raising the funds now.”
So far the family have raised over £12,000 towards the cost of the operation through a Go Fund Me page and events and have more fundraising events lined.
The family took part in the town’s Boxing Day Dip and will hold an 80s night in March. Mrs Thomson also plans to climb Ben Nevis in May with her colleagues - the last fundraiser before the operation.
Despite recently suffering a fall, Mr Thomson remains positive the funds will be raised.
If they are not raised in time Eric will have to wait for an alternative date.
He said: “It’s not long away, only six months. We have raised over £12k and there is still a lot to be done but if Joanne sets her mind to something she tends to do it.
“I have been going on the excercise bike for five minutes a day so I can be the best I can possibly be for going there in June.”
The condition affects Mr Thomson’s mobility and the operation aims to increase his ability to move.
The former Camerons Brewery worker was just 44 when he was diagnosed in July 2011. He said he would love to return to his old job.
He said: “I would say I am 6 to 6.5 on the EDS scale which defines where you are at with walking.
“There have been people on the EDS scale who had the operation and within two years are now at 3.5 which means they could get a job.”
The Riaz Clinic in Mexico carries out ten stem cell operations a month and Eric is in touch with people from around the world who will also be going for the operation next year.
He said: “They say that when you get back home you are bad for a couple of months. You have got to get worse to get better as your immune system starts again from scratch.
“It is my 50th birthday in April and our silver wedding anniversary in November next year so it will be huge year. My target is for a successful operation and to, hopefully, get a job by 2017.”
Raising the funds would be a dream come true for Mr Thomson who has seen his whole life change as symptoms progress.
A keen football player and coach for Pools Youth Team, He even played at Wembley in a team made up of Camerons staff 2010.
But the once-active family man had to give up the hobbies he loved as the illness took its hold.
This may be Mr Thomson’s last hope of recovery.
He will travel to Mexico weeks before his operation at the Riaz Clinic - one of the few in the world to carry out the proceedure.
The treatment will last four to six weeks and see him undergo tests to ensure he is fit enough for the procedure before receiving the stem cell transplant and chemotherapy lasting two weeks.
He will then need a two-week recovery period before flying home to the UK.
The family are hoping the transplant will slow or stop the progression of his condition through the hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) which involves the infusion of stem cells collected from bone marrow, blood, or umbilical cord blood, to re-establish haematopoietic function in patients whose bone marrow or immune system is damaged or defective.
For information on charity events visit: HSCT fundraising for Eric Thompson on Facebook. To donate, visit: http://www.gofundme.com/HSCTforEricT