A TEENAGER has been able to put in an order for a new wheelchair after a football club helped raised hundreds of pounds.

Jen Palfery-Smith, from Framwellgate Moor, Durham, needs the chair after losing the use of her legs earlier this year, months after being diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome.

The 18-year-old has faced a difficult year of trying to get a diagnosis for the condition and fighting to get the support she needs after suddenly developing symptoms last November.

Read more: 'Shhh' campaign launched in Durham for Freshers' Week

Jen was 17 when she got a twitch in her neck that rapidly became worse – eventually ending up in A&E as it became uncontrollable.

In April, a week after her 18th birthday, she lost the use of her legs due to the condition and now needs a wheelchair.

She said: “There were times it was like I was in an electric chair because I had so many tics.

“It’s daunting to realise you can just lose autonomy of your body because it’s fighting against you. I still find it freaky.

“It’s weird because it came on so late. It came completely out of no-where.”

Jen, who is studying A-levels at Durham Sixth Form Centre, said she was overwhelmed by the response from the community after £4,000 was raised so she can buy a custom-built chair which will allow her be more independent.

The teenager, who previously worked as Boots, has struggled to get a job due to her disability and says she has found it hard to deal with how people now react to her.

She said: "When I tell people I've got tourettes they give me a funny look. They think of scary people, not an 18-year-old who was fine nine months ago.

"It can be quite cutting and its not nice to hear. There's so much misunderstanding or lack of information.

"I've been trying to find work and its impossible because anything I can do has to be digital but I'm not that into tech. If it's anything in a shop or bar when I mention Tourette's they don't get back to me.

"The community has saved my life really."

Her mum, Gayle Palfery-Smith, who is a teaching assistant, said: “It feels like the system let us down but the community has picked us back up and pushed us on.

“We’ve been a bit lost but the community support has been so amazing.”

She presented the trophy at a charity match held by Coxhoe United Football Club on Saturday, which raised more than a £1,000, adding the £700 already donated by the club from its presentation evening.

She said: “There was an amazing turnout. It was overwhelming to see so many people.”

Brandon Boxing Club is also holding a charity event next month, while a zumbathon is also taking place - and poeple are being encouraged to get involved.

It takes place on October 17, between 1pm and 3pm at the O'Hehir School of Irish Dance in Barnfield Road, Spennymoor.

It is hoped the extra money raised from these events will enable Jen to get a chair with a motor, which will help her be able to travel further by herself and allow her to be independent at university.

She hopes to go to Southampton University next year to study anthropology and archaeology.

 

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