My Big FAT Gypsy Cheque: Travellers raise £800k for mum's lung transplant after Facebook appeal.
FROM MIRROR NEWS
BY NICK DORMAN Nick Dorman
This picture is not one I intended to go with this article, but google/blogger has started a new criteria for what can be uploaded to the blog. Not sure if I haven't figured it out yet or if it's a new way to make one use their products. Meanwhile there is a good photo of the mother and her children at the website. Morgan
Clarajane Penfold, 32, needed the Big Fat Gypsy bailout after developing a life-threatening lung condition, The Sunday Peoplehas revealed.
The mum of two claims she was told by doctors that she was not a “suitable candidate” for a transplant.
She suffers from obliterative bronchiolitis, a narrowing of the airways into her lungs caused by drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis taken since she was seven.
Fearing she would be dead within three years, she set her heart on getting a costly transplant op in the U.S.
To fund the trip she flogged her horse and mobile home in a travellers’ camp.
Relatives raised hundreds of thousands through land sales then travellers worldwide read a Facebook appeal and hawked trinkets to hand over the proceeds.
Clarajane said: “I would like to thank each and every person who helped. The support has been unbelievable. The good thing about the gypsy community is we are one big family and we stick together no matter what.”
The delighted mum added: “I can’t believe the nightmare is over.”
Pal Folomas Valler, who helped raise funds, said: “We have travellers all over the world that have raised money which proves we are still a strong God-giving race of people, proud of who we are, and proud to help our own.
“This has never been done on such a worldwide scale.”
Donations flooded in from as far afield as the US, home to more than a million Romanies, Australia and Kuwait.
Clarajane’s cousin Tory Gaskin said 8,000 people pledged cash within 24 hours of news of her plight spreading on Facebook and Twitter.
Tory said: “Everyone is pulling together.”
Another woman posted on Facebook: “I have just weighed 2 childrens chains, a broken earring and a ring without a stone, it was 3.5 grams and raised £43.59 for Clarajane.”
Money also poured in from raffles, sponsored walks and from the auction of a bridal gown designed by dressmaker Thelma Madine – star of hit Channel 4 show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
Clarajane, of Cranleigh, Surrey – mum to Shane, nine, and Dion, seven – launched the appeal last September.
She had asked London’s Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, which treats her, to go on the transplant list but was told by doctors she would not be listed for the op.
She then asked a separate body – NHS Specialised Services – for funding to have the operation abroad, but was turned down.
Desperate to find a cure, she began searching online, scouring websites for more information on her condition.
She eventually found a surgeon who could perform a lung-swap op in North Carolina and flew out last month for pre-surgery tests.
It is believed she will head to Duke University Hospital in Durham in the state, hoping to be treated by Dr David Zaas.
Three years ago he performed a lung transplant which saved the life of 16-year-old US girl Laura Margaret Burbach.
Clarajane said: “I’m getting this operation as I want to be with my kids.
“I don’t want them to grow up without me. My daughter Dion keeps crying saying she doesn’t want mummy to die.”
She added: “I wanted to prove British experts wrong as I am stubborn.
“Now I just hope the transplant is a success.”
A Trust spokesman said: “There are strict clinical criteria before patients can be considered for transplantation.
“It would be inappropriate to make any comment on an individual patient.”
National Specialised Commissioning Team’s Fiona Marley said: “The NHS is only able to fund a very small number of patients for treatment abroad.
“The panel can also consider the possibility of a patient being re-assessed for treatment in the UK.”