Mum tells of disappointment as treatment fails her blind daughter
SIGHT HOPE: Olivia Francis with her mum and dad Gemma Lacey and Daniel Francis and brother Lewis Francis
THE mother of a young girl who is totally blind says she is disappointed when she saw no change in her after treatment that was hoped would give her the gift of sight.
But Gemma Lacey, 26, says she has closure after she returned from China where her two-year-old daughter Olivia Francis was treated with stem cells.
A total of £35,000 was raised across Gwent and the midlands for the family of Olivia Francis for the procedure, so the youngster, her dad Daniel Francis and mum Gemma could go last August.
Ms Lacey, who lives in Nottinghamshire but has family in Newport, said going to Guangzhou was a big culture shock.
"It wasn't very nice," she said. "The journey was long and we were all exhausted.
"It was pretty full on, as soon as we got to the hospital the doctors wanted to examine Olivia and ask questions."
While she was there Olivia was given stem cells - which come from the umbilical cords of full term health babies in China - through an intravenous drip.
She said the doctors were professional and praised the company, Beike Biotechnology, behind the treatment saying they offered support all the way through.
However she said when they came back on August 14 there had been no change in Olivia's vision at all.
"We are told that stems cells are a long investment, they will help her health in one way or another," she said.
"But no vision. If I am honest I am disappointed."
"I tried not to get my hopes up. I tried to go with the thought that it’s not going to work but we are trying anyway. But I did get my hopes up that it had worked for other people.
"I was hoping that we would be one of the lucky ones, but unfortunately not."
She said she wouldn't want to go out to fundraise for the treatment again, knowing there was a risk of the treatment not working.
Ms Lacey said she couldn't say to someone whether the treatment would work for their child: "It's experimental. I'm glad we did it, I have got closure now.
"When Olivia asks me did I do everything as a mother that I could do to try to give her some sight, I can say yes I did."
The stem cell treatment was the only option available to help Olivia, Ms Lacey added.
"We are prepared for her future. We have the support of the school she is going to. We're going to have to prepare her for her being a blind adult."
Newport family led fundraising OLIVIA Francis was born blind - but it was hoped that with money raised by Ms Lacey's family in Newport and in the midlands that the stem-cell treatment may have given her the gift of vision.
Doctors told the family in May 2010 that Olivia had optic nerve hypoplasia and atrophy, meaning her optic nerves were dead.
The family decided to start fundraising for Olivia when they saw a news story about Izabelle Evans, a four-year-old reported to have seen her mum and dad for the first time after stem cell treatment in China.
Gemma Lacey's mother Tracey Lacey and grand-mother Pamela Kerruish both live in Lliswerry, Newport, and Pamela was behind much of the fundraising in the city.