Northern Irish goalkeeper out to save life of ex-wife's chronically ill sister
A Northern Ireland footballer will be undertaking a gruelling challenge in a bid to raise vital funds to save his former sister-in-law's life.
Goalkeeper Trevor Carson will do a 10km assault course in Whitley Bay in England to raise money for Melanie Hartshorn (26), who has Ehlors Danlos Syndrome (EDS).
The debilitating genetic EDS causes multiple dislocations and skin that tears and bruises easily, but Ms Hartshorn's symptoms are so extreme she has now been diagnosed as one of the most severe cases in the world.
Together they have set up Melanie's Mission on gofundme.com and Facebook to raise £150,000 for a lifesaving operation in America.
Mr Carson, from Killyleagh, who is currently with Hartlepool FC, will undertake the beach assault course in June and is urging others to support the cause.
"I've seen it first-hand and it's really terrible," he said.
"Mel has been bedridden since she was 12 years old.
She's only 26 years old and sits in her room all day long - it's no life.
"I've watched her suffering and it is not pleasant to watch, especially someone so young with so much to give. This operation would give her the chance of a life, especially since she has missed out on so much."
Biology graduate Melanie spends each day lying perfectly still as any slight movement, including sitting up, will cause a bone dislocation in her back or neck followed by a traumatic seizure.
She suffers 40 seizures during the day and up to 30 more during the night, constant urine and kidney infections, wears a neck brace and lies immobile 24/7 with her head face down in a hollowed cushion. EDS is also causing her head to apply pressure to her neck which is causing spinal fluid to collect in her skull, severely swelling her face and causing her to choke.
Her condition has been defined as so complex that neurologists in London say they can't help her and authorities in her native Newcastle-Upon-Tyne have been unable to implement a care system.
She is completely dependent on mum Molly (62), who is also registered as disabled and diagnosed with EDS, for round-the-clock care.
She's praying that money will be raised for the operation, which could restore her ability to sit up and even maybe walk, but ultimately allowing her to fulfil her dream of training as a teacher.
"It's unbelievable seeing her and her mum cope with no help at all," said Mr Carson, whose ex-wife Meryem (23) has a mild form of the condition. "She's tried everything and she constantly hits brick walls. It's amazing that she can stay so upbeat with all the pain she suffers.
"We live in hope that we will raise the money. I know I won't be able to raise it all but you never know who might see the appeal and help us.
"I once saw that Simon Cowell donated £25,000 to help someone, so we live in that hope that people will help us."
He also plans to auction off his goalkeeping memorabilia to boost funds.
Mr Carson says he has the added concern that his three-year-old daughter Katiya may carry the gene, but cannot be tested for another year.
"Very little is known about this condition," he added.
"So, hopefully, by fundraising, we can also get more information out there to people about EDS."
Ms Hartshorn, who attended her sister's wedding on a stretcher, said: "It would really mean the world to me.
"To get to America I need a team of medics to take me, so it's not cheap. Then the operation, depending on what they can do, will take hours.
"It can take a long time to heal but I don't care as long as it makes me better, I'm just hoping people will please help me raise the money."
So far between the two they have raised just over £3,000, so there's still some way to go to hit the total.