Monday, 30 November 2015

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Pop star Ronan Keating stops concert to praise Carlisle teen

The courage of a Carlisle teenager battling a life-threatening illness has been praised by pop star Ronan Keating.

Jodie Vasquez photo
Jodie Vasquez with Ronan Keating

The former Boyzone frontman was so moved by Jodie Vasquez’s story that he paused in the middle of a concert in Newcastle to pay tribute to her.

Jodie, 18, of Currock, has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), an ‘invisible illness’. She has been diagnosed with type 3 hypermobility and her features conceal internal organs that are failing one by one.

Jodie was diagnosed with EDS only three years ago, and since then has had to endure her small intestine slowly failing, the removal of her appendix and the removal of her large bowel – to be replaced with a permanent stoma or ileostomy.

Before Christmas she underwent major surgery to fit a second stoma, after it emerged her bladder was no longer functioning properly.

While the teenager admits she has “down days”, she is determined not to let EDS define her.

Jodie and her mum Maxine Farish, 47, launched Jodie’s Journey seven months ago, to raise awareness of EDS and to raise much needed funds for the Sick Children’s Trust, which provides accommodation for families of children in hospital.

Last week the pair travelled to Newcastle to present a cheque for £5,593.15, before Ronan Keating’s concert.

Maxine explained: “The Sick Children’s Trust arranged for Jodie to have a meet-and-greet with Ronan before.

“Jodie loves all boy bands and was really excited. Unfortunately Ronan had flu, and we didn’t think the meet-and-greet would even go ahead. He insisted though and he cuddled Jodie and chatted to her.”

While the meeting itself would have been enough for Jodie and her mum, the singer went one step further.

“Ronan did a couple of songs in the concert and then stopped,” Maxine recalled. “He was saying he had flu, and then he said that there he was, complaining, and he had met this inspirational girl beforehand.

“He told the crowd all about Jodie, said she was beautiful and asked everyone to support her with her fundraising – he even read out the Jodie’s Journey website address.”

Ronan then dedicated his next song, When You Say Nothing At All, to Jodie.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “It was an absolute pleasure and honour to meet Jodie and hear her story.

“She is a true inspiration and I urge everyone to support her amazing fundraising.”

Ronan’s words had an immediate effect with one concert-goer giving £20 to Jodie there and then.

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