MICHAEL Willacy is a real inspiration.
The 15-year-old, from Blackpool, had his world turned upside down last year after he started suffering seizures while on a family holiday in the south of France.
A keen rugby player, the former Unity College pupil has spend countless days in hospital since then undergoing a variety of tests and treatment, uses a walking frame and wheelchair and is now having to be home-schooled – but he is determined not to let anything beat him.
His bravery and determination is so impressive, he recently scooped a top honour in the Radio Wave Heroes in the Community Awards.
Michael was nominated under the Bravest Youngster category by play worker Sue Pelling, from Brian House Children’s Hospice, which he now attends for regular respite.
Proud mum Lynn, of Central Drive, who had to give up work to care full-time for Michael, said she was delighted Michael had won an award.
“It was lovely. I was really chuffed just to hear he had been nominated, but thrilled when he won.
“He’s been through so much and it has been such a tough time for the whole family, so it meant a lot. It was quite special.”
Michael said: “It was a shock, but a nice shock.
“When they called out my name, I looked to the side of me and my mum was crying and my brother was crying and Sue, who nominated me was smiling.
“It was really nice and it was a really good evening at the awards night.”
Michael’s life changed forever in July 2011 when he was on holiday in France, with his family.
He suffered a seizure – he had never had one before.
He was taken to a French hospital where he underwent a series of tests and scans, but doctors felt he would be best treated in England and he was flown home, leaving his dad in France to drive home.
He suffered further seizures and underwent more tests at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Michael spent two to three weeks altogether in and out of hospital. It was initially thought his condition was caused by a virus and experts from across the country were consulted, including from Manchester, Oxford and Liverpool about this case.
Eventually, he was diagnosed as having Rasmussen’s Enthalpy syndrome – a condition in which the immune system believes it is under attack and fights back, but causes problems and damage in the body itself.
Michael’s treatment is ongoing, but he has already been given a raft of medication and treatment, including an autonomous stem cell transplant and chemotherapy to totally wipe out his immune system and start again.
The illness has caused Michael some memory loss, has affected the left side of his body and he has to use a walking frame around the house and a wheelchair to get out and about.
But he is still determined to complete his GCSEs in English, Maths, Science, Geography, French and his favourite subject Graphic Design.
The keen Blackpool FC supporter has a big interest in art and photography.
Michael said he was grateful for all the support he has had over the last 18 months.
“I’ve had so much support – Brian House have been brilliant, I get on so well with all the staff there.
“My mum has been amazing – we get on really well.
“And people from school have been great, especially my form teacher and they have held fundraising events. So many people have been in touch to let me know I am missed at school.
“We’ve had a lot of support, which we would like to thank everyone for.”