Tot can have sight-saving op thanks to £35k from Gwent fundraisers
A TWO-YEAR-OLD girl is to embark on a journey to a hospital on the other side of the world after Gwent people helped raise £35,000 in a bid to give her the gift of sight.
Next Wednesday Olivia Francis will fly with her mother Gemma Lacey and her dad Daniel Francis to undergo controversial stem-cell treatment in China, which they hope will Olivia the vision she's never had.
The trip follows a year of campaigning to raise the cash to go, with around a third of the money raised with the help of her family in Newport.
But doctors in the UK have asked them not to make their trip and Ms Lacey, 26 and originally from Newport, herself acknowledges it may not work.
The family are to fly to Guangzhou, south of Hong Kong, where at a hospital Olivia will be given stemcells via an intravenous drip once every two to three days.
Ms Lacey said the cells are donated from the umbilical cords of full term healthy babies in China, and are tested for AIDS and Hepatitis.
"I'm really nervous and scared to be honest. It's the unknown for us, its taking Olivia out of her comfort zone," said Ms Lacey.
Ms Lacey said the treatment is safe, but was "experimental in the fact that it may or may not work."
She said she had spoken to an American family whose six-year-old son was born completely blind, but following the treatment can see shadows and light in his left eye and has good vision in his right eye.
The firm behind Olivia's treatment, Beike Biotechnology, has sparked controversy. Its treatments have not been subject to clinical trials and some have questioned whether the method works.
Doctors have "tried their upmost" to persuade Ms Lacey not to take Olivia. "They have said there's no evidence that it will work for Olivia. They're concerned for her welfare," said Ms Lacey.
But she said she trusts the firm behind the treatment, Beike Biotech and others that have gone have not come to harm.
Ms Lacey, who lives in Nottinghamshire and whose son Lewis Francis, 5, will be staying in Newport, said it is the only option available: "If it doesn't work then I've got closure. If I didn't go I will always be wondering."
Olivia is due to return on August 18.
A TOTAL of £35,000 was raised for Olivia to go to China and Newport fundraisers helped contribute a significant amount to the total.
Gemma Lacey's mum Tracey Lacey and grand mother Pamela Kerruish both live in Lliswerry and it is Pamela who has been behind fund-raising in the city.
She has held sponsored swims, aqua-aerobics and table top sales, There have been fundraising concerts, sponsored cycle rides and sponsored dances.
Chairman of truck dealership firm Keltruck, Chris Kelly, also made a single donation of £10,000.
Gemma Lacey said: "I was quite surprised that my nan was able to get as many people to rally around and do everything she did.
"It does restore your faith in the kindness in people."