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Gorleston dad’s battle for “lifeline” medical treatment

PUBLISHED: 08:03 27 June 2014 | UPDATED: 13:57 27 June 2014

John Palmer, father-in-law of Ryan Harman who suffers from motor neurone disease, pictured with wife Natalie on their wedding day. Picture: Lichfield Photographic Services

John Palmer, father-in-law of Ryan Harman who suffers from motor neurone disease, pictured with wife Natalie on their wedding day. Picture: Lichfield Photographic Services

Lichfield Photographic Services

A dad battling a debilitating illness is hoping pioneering treatment will give him the strength to hold his newborn baby.

Stepping out to raise awareness

The donation drive for Ryan comes as the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association marks its annual awareness month.

Throughout June the charity has been holding events across the country to raise awareness of the fatal condition, and local fundraiser Sarah Lee is continuing to highlight the condition by holding a sponsored walk next month.

The Gorleston resident lost her mum to the disease in 2005 and since then has raised more than £5,000 for the charity. Her next fundraiser is a five mile Walk to D’feet MND, setting off from her home in Newnham Green at 10am on July 12.

Anyone is welcome to join in the walk, which will take in Gorleston town centre and the beach.

For more information, and to register, call Sarah on 01493 603886.

Ryan Harman, from Gorleston, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease three months after marrying wife Natalie in August 2012.

The condition has weakened the 33-year-old, who has had to give up his job as a plasterer, and also affected his motor skills and speech.

But he is hoping stem cell treatment in China will help him regain enough strength so he can hold his new baby - who was due yesterday - and give him enough time to see their first birthday.

Friends and family have so far raised £18,000 of the £20,000 minimum Ryan needs for flights and treatment at the private Wu Medical Centre in Beijing, and his father-in-law is now making a final fundraising push to get him to his target.

John Palmer, also known as Joe, said the trip to China was Ryan’s “last chance” and is being seen as a lifeline by his family.

The self employed window cleaner from Bradwell, said: “They have found this private hospital in Beijing, which is doing stem cell treatment and has been having positive results [in other patients] to prolong life and regain strength.

“It’s not a cure but it’s Ryan’s only hope at the moment. He’s going downhill so quickly, this treatment is his last chance.”

Ryan and Natalie, 31, who were expecting their first child together yesterday, have been in touch with an American motor neurone sufferer who has been treated at the Wu centre, and seen encouraging results.

John, who this month celebrated his 60th birthday and 25 years of his business, said: “He’s in the same boat as Ryan, his arms are completely weak. But he’s had stem cell treatment and can get one arm above his head and is feeling stronger. It’s quite promising.

“To be able to hold his baby and see it’s first birthday, that would be his ambition at the moment.”

Ryan - who was a Cambridge United trainee and also played for Gorleston FC - has provisionally booked to fly out to China in August with a friend, who has taken three weeks off work to accompany him.

But while the fundraising continues, he and Natalie are now preparing for their new arrival and the family have asked supporters to respect their privacy as they welcome their newborn.

The couple also wished to thank everyone for their “overwhelming” support from day one.

■ To donate to Ryan’s fund visit Anyone wanting to support Ryan can also make a donation to John, who thanked all his customers over the last 25 years.

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