A brave young girl who needs urgent treatment to save her eyesight will tomorrow fly to America to start potentially life-changing therapy.
At 10.20am, Scarlett McCraken, her mum and her grandmother are set to lift off on their way to Oklahoma to meet the doctors tasked with stopping her going blind.
It follows a month of intensive fund-raising in order to pay for the trio to stay in the States while the 10-year-old undergoes proton beam therapy.
The £90,000 treatment, which is not available in this country, is being paid for by the NHS, but the family were left needing around £14,000 to cover their costs while they are in Oklahoma.
Mum Kerry, 33, of Wilbanke Avenue, Kirkham, said: “It has come round really quickly – it’s amazing news.
“We are trying to let as many people know as we can as Scarlett has had some really overwhelming support, not just from our community, but the surrounding areas too.”
Scarlett, a pupil at Willows Catholic Primary School, Kirkham, was diagnosed with a brain tumour just over four years ago, and had to undergo a life-saving operation.
Despite the initial success of the procedure, she was left with some active cells that have been pushing on her optic nerve and causing her to lose her sight.
It has now deteriorated so badly that the NHS decided to pay to send her to the USA for treatment.
Since her story appeared in The Gazette in January, the family, who found out the news on Friday, say they are well on their way to hitting their fund-raising target.
Kerry, whose nine-year-old daughter will stay behind in England with dad Lee, added: “Scarlett is a bit apprehensive but she’s excited.
“From my point of view it’s amazing – the best outcome –but for a 10-year-old it’s going to be a bit daunting.”
Once the family have recovered from their 4,500-mile trip across the Atlantic, via Atlanta, doctors will spend a week carrying out tests and preparing Scarlett for the treatment.
She will then undergo the proton beam therapy five times a week for between eight and 10 weeks.
Kerry added: “Work has been amazing – I’ve got time off and my mum is coming.
“My nine-year-old will have to stay at home with dad for school, but hopefully they can come out for the Easter holidays.”
Currently, Scarlett’s procedure is not available in the UK, but the NHS is building two proton beam centres, one in London and one in Manchester, which are expected to open in 2018.
The NHS sends patients abroad if care teams think they are ideally suited to receive the therapy.
Around 400 patients have been sent abroad since 2008 – mostly children.
The operation uses a beam of protons to eradicate diseased tissue.