- Harrowing film shows family's agony over girl's painful
- On the eve of today's publication of the report into
the BSE fiasco in Britain, the nation was shown harrowing images of a child
suffering a slow, painful death from the human form of mad cow disease.
- Zoe Jeffries, 14, once a healthy, active child, was pictured
lying almost motionless as her mother and sisters attended to her needs
at the family home in Wigan, Greater Manchester.
- Her mother, Helen, 39, allowed cameras into the house
to film her sick daughter, providing the first real glimpse of the devastation
vCJD has wreaked on its victims and their families.
- In the interview broadcast by Channel 4 News, she described
how Zoe had been a popular girl with a passion for sport before showing
the first symptoms of the illness two months after her husband died in
- She said: "One morning she got up and just didn't
do anything. She just cried. It was as though she went to bed one person
and got up a different person." Zoe cried solidly for two weeks, Mrs
Jeffries said, then she began to scream all the time, refusing to leave
the house and screaming when she went to school.
- Doctors assumed she was suffering a delayed reaction
to her father's death. She was prescribed anti-depressants but by the end
of the year her mobility was affected.
- Mrs Jeffries said: "It was about October when I
noticed that she wasn't walking properly. She held her arms out and dragged
one foot behind. She kept her balance most of the time but you could tell
she was making an effort to do that."
- Mrs Jeffries said she had taken Zoe, her eldest child,
to a neurologist after waiting three months for an appointment, and the
doctor knew almost instantly what was wrong with her.
- She said: "You just feel like someone has hit you
on the head with a hammer. Zoe was sat outside waiting and I just remember
walking out of the room and looking at her and I couldn't tell her. I have
never told her since. I didn't really cry - something died inside me and
I couldn't cry."
- She described how her other children had "sobbed
their hearts out" when she broke the tragic news to them.
- Mrs Jeffries said that it took until April 1999 for doctors
from the CJD Surveillance Unit to officially diagnose her daughter's condition
- She told the programme she was angry that help from social
services, since Zoe was diagnosed, had been patchy at best and non-existent
- The occupational therapist assigned to Zoe said that
the family could not have a stairlift because their stairs were too narrow,
and that they could not have an extension to the house "because she
wouldn't live long enough".
- "It's more than anyone can cope with. We had to
fight for everything - even incontinence pads I had to go to my MP for,"
said Mrs Jeffries. "We shouldn't have to do all that."
- Zoe's breathing now stops on occasions and she has to
be given emergency oxygen to keep her alive.
- Her mother said: "I don't know if it's the right
thing to do _ I hope that when the time comes I can say 'leave her be'.
I'm not sure I can do it but I'm going to have to, for her."
- Mrs Jeffries said that she wanted the BSE report to name
those to blame in the crisis, adding: "It's just as if someone had
stuck a knife in Zoe's body - I really do think she has been murdered.
If she were a cow and I was a farmer then we would get everything I needed."
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