Tugging at the heartstrings

A man with a rare terminal disease hopes to find a cure through a charity song written by his late wife.

James Blair (86) has amyloidosis, a group of rare but serious conditions caused by deposits of abnormal protein in tissues and organs throughout the body.

The build-up causes these vital components to stop working properly and, for James, it means his heart is slowly shutting down after a nine-year fight against the disease.

His daughter Sylvia and his three other children, Jim (59), Helen (55) and Robert (53), hope their late mother Janet’s poem An Old Man’s Prayer – which has been turned into song by carer and musician Nicky Westland – can prevent other families going through the same ordeal.

Sylvia (61) said: “We hope to sell 1000 copies of the song which will raise £5000 to go to fund research towards a cure that could save people like my dad.”

James, from Falkirk, who has been helping with research into the condition at the Centre for Amyloidosis and Acute Phase Proteins in London, said: “When I was first diagnosed there was very little known about the condition.

“There still isn’t a cure so I’m managing the symptoms. It was only thanks to Dr Catherine Labinjoh that I’m still here today after she spotted the signs in 2008.”

The former painter and decorator added: “It’s a horrible disease but we wanted to do something because I don’t want others to suffer.”

The family was struck by tragedy in July 2015 when James’ wife Janet died aged 81. She had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia only six months earlier.

It was a devastating blow to their children and to James – who had been recently fitted with a double pacemaker after increasing concerns about his slowing heartbeat.

It was only after his wife’s death though that they found out her literary work had been published in Memories of the Millennium, a book of poems from the 20th century.

Sylvia said: “After she died I thought it would be a fitting tribute to her to read one of her poems at her funeral.

“It was then that I came across the letter saying her poem had been accepted to be published. She never said.”

She added: “My mum and dad had a wonderful marriage and spent 60 happy years together. Now their love lives on through mum’s words and dad’s effort to help others.”

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