| 0°C Belfast

Chinese stem-cell op is blind toddler's 'only hope of sight'

A girl blind since birth will have to travel to China to undergo stem-cell treatment if she is to have any chance of seeing.

Fifteen-month-old Amelia Filipczak from Tuam, Co Galway, suffers from hypotonia and optic nerve hypoplasia.

Her muscle tone is also very low and this is preventing her from walking on her own.

Her parents, Polish-born couple Justyna and Lukasz, said her only hope to ever see or walk is an expensive trip to the Beike medical facility in Qingdao in China to receive stem-cell treatment.

"This is the one hope we have of getting sight for Amelia as they cannot do any surgery on the optic nerves. Only stem cells can help make her optic nerves grow and give her sight," explained Justyna.

The couple have been living and working in Tuam for the past four years and their local community is now rallying to raise the €50,000 needed for the trip.

"Our savings would be only a drop in the ocean that is why we hope people will help give our daughter a chance of a better life," says Lukasz.

He now holds down two jobs while his wife looks after Amelia, who needs constant care and physiotherapy several times each day.

"If each day had 28 hours and I worked all these hours we still could not fund the cost of the trip to China," said Lukasz.

"Stem-cell treatment will help Amelia's eye nerves to grow to a proper size and give her the ability to see," said Lukasz.

He said stem cells can also be injected into the child's muscles to improve their tone -- and hopefully enable her to walk.

Amelia's parents have taken heart from the news that the Beike hospital has helped to improve the sight of two Galway girls in recent years.

"Two families have already found the treatment beneficial and we are making contact with the parents of both girls," said Lukasz.

A fundraising committee has been established in Tuam headed by Mayor Sally Ann Flanagan.

Anyone wishing to donate to the Amelia Fund can do so at St Jarlath's Credit Union in Tuam, account number 493757.

Irish Independent

Belfast Telegraph