Westquarter’s Samantha vows to keep fighting

Andy, Samantha and Rhanna
Andy, Samantha and Rhanna

A Westquarter mum is hoping to fight the odds and find a cure for her rare degenerative disease.

Samantha Crawford (37) is the youngest person in Britain to be diagnosed with multiple system atrophy.

Only five in every 100,000 suffer from the disorder, which affects the nerves, leaving sufferers with difficulties walking, talking, sleeping and swallowing.

At the moment there is no cure, but Samantha, together with husband Andy and daughter Rhanna (16), have thrown themselves into an awareness and fundraising campaign which they hope will help to find one.

MSA is so hard to diagnose that doctors initially thought Samantha had a different condition before they confirmed the diagnosis in March.

Samantha said: “It was the worst thing ever.

“You don’t know what to expect from the diagnosis and when you’ve got a family to tell it’s horrible.

“Telling my mum and Andy’s mum was awful.”

However, breaking the news to Graeme High pupil Rhanna was the most difficult.

Samantha said: “She still had her exams to sit so we decided we wouldn’t tell her till they were finished.

“But then my speech started to be affected and it was quite slurred.

“She’s not stupid so we made the decision to tell her. It was horrendous.”

Rhanna said: “I knew that there was something they weren’t telling me but I didn’t want to bring it up.

“I didn’t think it would be anything as bad as this though.”

Just a few days after hearing the news, Rhanna decided to make a video slideshow about her mum’s condition, which she posted on YouTube.

She said: “It started out as just my way of dealing with things but then it started to raise awareness as well.”

Samantha said: “The video was incredible and, on the back of it being posted on Facebook, the amount of money on our justgiving page for the MSA Trust jumped up.

“Raising awareness is so important because it’s so difficult to explain to people what is wrong.”

Samantha is in constant pain in her legs, neck and back, and is on medication to slow the progression of the disease and to treat the symptoms.

She said: “At the moment my hands are starting to be affected so they’re looking at how to help that.

“I’ve also got to try to keep away from infection because my body would struggle to fight it.”

Andy (49) gave up work as a prison officer in 2009 to become Samantha’s full time carer - the couple actually met at work but Samantha had to leave her job early on in her illness because it was making her pass out.

Andy said: “It has been very difficult.

“We’re hoping that her illness will eventually plateau.”

In the meantime, together with Michael J’s Hair Design, Rhanna has organised a ladies’ charity night at the salon in Comely Place, Falkirk.

The event will take place on August 4 from 5.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. and will include a host of pampering treatments, as well as champagne and cupcakes.

Tickets, priced £20, are available from the salon.

To donate to the family’s fundraising appeal, go to www.justgiving.com/samantha-crawford2.

To watch Rhanna’s emotional video, search for ‘MSA awareness fundraising campaign’ on youtube.