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Weather presenter reaches for the clouds to help sick nephew


L to R - Paul Connolly, Brian Connolly and Robbie Connolly - see story by Louise Hogan

L to R - Paul Connolly, Brian Connolly and Robbie Connolly - see story by Louise Hogan

L to R - Paul Connolly, Brian Connolly and Robbie Connolly - see story by Louise Hogan

FORMER RTE weather presenter Paul Connolly plans to brave the inclement slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise more than €80,000 for research after his nephew was diagnosed with a rare condition.

Robbie Connolly (7) has been diagnosed with eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorder, a rare gut disorder that has left him with a weak immune system, suffering acute abdominal pain from an inflamed colon and a restricted diet due to allergies to egg, dairy, wheat and soya.

Paul and his brother Brian, a British Airways pilot from Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, are joining with a number of Robbie's doctors from Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London to scale Africa's highest mountain.

The 20-strong climbing group hopes to raise more than €80,000 for research into the rare gut disorder as they try to pinpoint the cause of the problems.

Paul and Brian's uncle, the well-known sculptor Jim Connolly, has also given them one of his bronze works which will be sold in March.

"Robbie was actually showing symptoms right from birth. He was typical of babies that aren't diagnosed. He had difficulty feeding and what we now realise is abdominal pain," his father Brian said. "He was three, nearly four, when he was diagnosed."

Around 6,000 children are being treated at the gastro-intestinal unit at Great Ormond Street -- 700 with the same condition as Robbie.

"Some children have different kinds of complications and have to be tube fed all the time or have a line directly into the blood stream where there are extreme cases of food intolerance," Brian said.

He added that many children go undiagnosed and the monies raised will be used to probe the cause of the disorders. Robbie's older sister Isobel (10) is unaffected but his younger brother Angus (2) has been on a restricted diet since birth as he is likely to have the condition.

The group will set off on the climb on February 11 and will take about four days to reach the summit.

"I'm fairly nervous at this stage due to my lack of preparation," Paul, who now works behind-the-scenes at the broadcaster, said. "The main problem is altitude sickness that can hit anybody regardless of fitness or age."

• More information on their fundraising bid and donating can be found at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulConnolly

Irish Independent