A South Tyneside teenager is facing a race against time to raise £60,000 for life changing surgery overseas.
Ellie Gray, 18, is booked to travel to Spain for an operation next week that will see neurosurgeons fuse her skull to her spine – halting her rapid health decline.
So far Ellie, who suffers the debilitating genetic condition Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and her family have raised just £33,500 of a £94,000 target.
With an £8,000 deposit already paid and her condition deteriorating, her mum Janine, 48, and dad Neil, 50, of Victoria Terrace, East Boldon, say the operation must go ahead.
To ensure it does, they are now making contingency plans to borrow any shortfall - even though it would leave the family in huge debt.
To add to their burden, former medical statistician Janine also suffers from EDS and requires a similar operation, which is unavailable in the UK.
Today, she made a last pre-operation appeal for public support, saying: “We know we are in a very real race against time.
“Ellie cannot wait any longer for the operation. Her health is so important to us that we just have to get this money.
“As parents, we will do all we can, even though we will end up in significant debt if we have to borrow such an amount.
“Adding to this is the fact that I also need surgery. Right now, it feels like a mountain before us.
“As a family, we are very grateful to everyone who has contributed financially or who has helped us in other ways. We hope others will help us now.”
Ellie will travel to Barcelona in Spain next Thursday for treatment for a condition which causes lax ligaments.
By fusing her skull to her spine, neurosurgeons will attempt to stabilise her head and neck to stop her skull slipping down into her brain stem.
Surgeons will also operate on the base and possibly the middle of her back.
Two fundraising events last weekend added to the overall cash tally, with almost £200 collected.
Visitors to the East Boldon Family Fun Day, in Grange Park, raised £48, with Brownies, Guides and Rainbows chipping in a further £125.
And players and supporters of South Shields Rugby Football Club collected £11 – money Ellie’s family say is vital to keeping the fundraising ball rolling.
Ellie was just 12 when diagnosed with a Chiari malformation, which is a hindbrain hernia, and a cyst on the spine known as syringomyelia.
She underwent major neurosurgery to prevent deterioration of these conditions, which adversely triggered other symptoms.
It was another four years before doctors diagnosed EDS.
Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/just4children/elliesfusion
More information on her story is at page www.facebook.com/elliesfusion