Boost for brave mum as she battles rare illness

Penny Wheeler, who has a rare illness, enjoyed a better Christmas thanks to a new portable oxygen supply. Penny is pictured with husband Nick
Penny Wheeler, who has a rare illness, enjoyed a better Christmas thanks to a new portable oxygen supply. Penny is pictured with husband Nick

A BRAVE Belper mum who is battling a rare illness has received a boost — in the form of a portable oxygen supply.

Penny Wheeler, of Beaurepaire Crescent, received the £3,600 equipment, which is called an oxygen concentrator, on the eve of Christmas.

And her husband Nick told the News that it enabled Penny and the family to enjoy a “normal, family Christmas”.

Penny, 51, suffers from scleroderma, an incurable condition where her body’s immune system attacks itself.

Nick said: “The concentrator is making life more tolerable for Penny. It has given her back a bit of independence.

“Without the oxygen she would not be able to go anywhere. The oxygen bottles she used before had limited life.

“The concentrator runs on batteries and is rechargeable. We can plug it in if we go somewhere.

“It was an early Christmas present. We had family round on Christmas Day, myself, Penny and our three children Dan, Niall and Megan, as well as Niall’s girlfriend Kate.

“We did normal family stuff. We were also able to go out and see my parents and Penny’s parents thanks to the concentrator.

“It was a nice Christmas.”

As well as a pleasant Christmas, the oxygen concentrator also proved its worth because Penny and Nick were recently able to go to a hospital in London to seek specialist advice.

The concentrator was paid for out of a fund that was set up by Penny’s family in October. It has already passed the £10,000 mark.

Nick said the money could be put towards paying for a drug that could slow down Penny’s condition or, hope the family, improve it.

The drug is not currently available on the NHS.

“If we have to pay for it, the money would come out of the fund,” said Nick. “It is about making Penny’s life easier and enabling her to live as normal a life as possible. And to prolong her life as well.

“Without the treatment, she could have as little as two years left. But with treatment, it may prolong her life for five years or more. But we just don’t know.”

The fund was started after Penny’s mum organised a sponsored walk. Others got in on the act and began organising events in aid of the fund and a committee was formed.

Son Dan organised a music festival in Derby called PennyFest, daughter Megan did a sponsored body-wax of men at her university in Sunderland, and son Niall’s girlfriend Kate sold jewellery she made herself in her shop on King Street, Belper.

This April, four lads from the Grapes pub in Belper will cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats. In May, eight people from the Old Ps rugby social club will be doing a coast-to-coast walk.

Nick said: “We have had a lot of support. We can’t thank people enough. They have given us a chance to make Penny’s life a bit better.”

You can donate to Penny’s Fund at the HSBC bank in Belper, or send cheques made payable to Penny’s Fund to 2 Deepdale Road, Belper. The family are also hoping to donate some money from the fund to two charities — the Scleroderma Society and The Crackle Fund.