An 11 year old boy from Wilnecote, with a rare metabolic disease has been gifted a hydrotherapy bath from local fundraising group, Simon’s Heroes, to provide him with relief from the strain and pain his body endures as a result of the condition.
Matthew Elwell and his twin brother Thomas were born with Mitochondrial Disease, an inherited chronic illness that can be present at birth or develop later in life. It causes debilitating physical, developmental and cognitive disabilities. Symptoms include loss of muscle coordination, muscle weakness, pain, seizures, vision and hearing loss, heart disease and organ failure.
In Matthew and Thomas’ case, their symptoms did not develop until a week after their 2nd birthday. Matthew fell ill with what was initially thought to be a sickness virus. His condition rapidly deteriorated and he was admitted into hospital. Within 72 hours Matthew suffered a massive stroke and lapsed into a coma. He was on life support for 2 weeks. Tracey Elwell, Matthew’s mum, recalled how the doctors advised that the damage to Matthew’s brain was so widespread, it would certainly have permanent and severely debilitating consequences.
Just a week after Matthew fell ill, his brother Thomas started to show symptoms. But this time it attacked his heart. Medics acted swiftly and were able to put some measures in place to limit the damage. Today Thomas leads a relatively normal lifestyle, occasionally experiencing breathlessness and avoiding anything too exertive which could put pressure on his heart.
Matthew came out of his coma two weeks later but the stroke had caused severe brain damage which had devastated his body. He was completely paralysed and had lost his sight and speech. His thinking and reasoning abilities were unaffected. Tracey said it was the most distressing and heart breaking time of their lives. Thomas and Matthew spent a total of 14 weeks in hospital before they were discharged.
The doctors didn’t think Matthew would surpass the age of 5 but 9 years on he survives with his mum Tracey, brother Thomas and sister Rebecca (14) in the family home. His mum stays at home to look after him, along with his full time-carers Sam and Emma. Matthew regained his sight and uses it as his main form of communication. ‘When he is on form he can be very cheeky and smiley and loves to watch TV, Mr Tumble is his favourite,’ his mum told us.
Matthew is a pupil at Two Rivers Primary School in Tamworth where, up until recently, he attended when he felt well enough. The school provide sensory and hydrotherapy sessions which give Matthew some relief from the rigors of his condition – he suffers frequently from seizures and muscle spasms. ‘The support the school has given us has been amazing and invaluable’, Tracey Elwell.
Matthew’s condition has since deteriorated and he now spends most of his time at the family home. He suffered another relapse in June when he contracted pneumonia, which he suffers from regularly but he has since stabilised. This has restricted his visits to the hydrotherapy pool which had given him such a boost as the treatment helped relax and soothe him.
‘I cannot thank Simon’s Heroes enough for their wonderful gift. The hydrotherapy bath has made such a difference to Matthew. His face lights up when you tell him it’s bath time. It helps to ease the congestion in his chest. He uses it frequently and benefits so much more from having one at home. It’s given him a new lease of life.’
Simon’s Heroes would like to thank Heritage Bathrooms in Tamworth for their contribution towards Matthew’s hydrotherapy bath.