A fundraising push has been launched to transform the life of a three-year-old girl with a rare, terminal illness.
Sophie Saunders, of Winters Way in Waltham Abbey, is one of only 300 children in the world known to suffer from Ullrich Muscular Dystrophy, which causes the muscles to waste and joints to seize.
Sufferers tend to survive into early adulthood, but as Sophie is already showing signs of breathing problems, she is only expected to live until the age of 12.
Her family have launched a fundraising appeal as Sophie’s current wheelchair has limited functionality and a new one, costing £15,000, would give her greater freedom and enable her to adjust the height and sit at the table with her friends.
There is a one in a million chance that both of Sophie’s parents, Natalie Moss and Dean Saunders, both carried the gene which led to her condition.
Describing the moment Sophie was diagnosed, Miss Moss, 25, said: “Sophie’s dad and I were sat in the waiting room and I picked up a Muscular Dystrophy leaflet.
All the children looked unwell and I said to Dean, ‘she hasn’t got that, that’s not Sophie’ and he said ‘no, she hasn’t’.
“When we were called in and they told us, I was so shocked.
“I knew something was wrong but I didn’t think it would be that.
“They said it was a one in a million chance that two carriers of the gene would meet and have children, but we did.
The family have applied for funds through charities and staff at 15 Co-op shops, including the branch in Waltham Abbey, have pledged to take on fundraising challenges.
Miss Moss added: “The chair would allow Sophie to get herself around. She could go outside with her friends at school because she has to rely on an adult for every single movement.
“She is such a funny, bossy little mini-me. She loves to read and she is very clever for her age.
“This chair would last Sophie for the rest of her life. It would give her her independence.”
You can donate and follow Sophie’s progress here.