Leah’s story on TV

CLOSE BOND: Leah Garfitt with mum Lindsey Patterson

CLOSE BOND: Leah Garfitt with mum Lindsey Patterson

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A HEART-rending documentary about a little Fleetwood girl who captured the town’s heart was screened on prime time TV this week.

AN ITV crew spent two-and-half years filming Leah Garfitt, who suffers from the genetic illness Niemann Pick Disease Type C, and her family in Fleetwood.

Leah, who is nine years old and attends Red Marsh School, Thornton, is one of only 500 children in the world suffering from the disorder which attacks the nervous system.

It has already robbed the pretty youngster of the ability to talk and walk, and she now has numerous other problems including dementia.

And tragically, the illness is likely to cost the youngster her life before she reaches the age of just 15.

However, from Leah’s heart-breaking story film maker Chris Malone has created a film which he says is uplifting and carries a message of love, bravery and down-to earth determination.

The programme, Leah’s Dream, was broadcast on Tuesday, March 1, at 9pm on ITV1.

Manchester-based Chris told the Weekly News: “There is a sad story at the heart of it because of Leah’s illness, but in many ways it is uplifting.

“It is a love affair between a little girl and her devoted mother, Lindsey Patterson, who has to come to terms with her daughter’s illness, and the strength of their family when things are tough.

“Lindsey then also has to face up to her own illness when she is diagnosed with a brain tumour and almost dies on the operating table.”

Chris added: “The film is also about the community of Fleetwood.

“When I started filming in Fleetwood I fell in love with this place; the community is so warm and down to earth.

“Everyone seems to know Leah and there is a lot of love for her in the town.”

Well known places in Fleetwood were featured in the film, including the Ferry Cafe, the beach and promenade.

The TV film also touched on Leah’s trip to Disney World on Florida.

Funds for this once-in a lifetime trip were during a Weekly News campaign which raised an astounding £10,500 plus over 2007/8.

Fleetwood’s community responded magnificently with fundraisers and donations large and small, ensuring that Leah could enjoy the special trip while she was well enough.

Tragically, today such a trip would be impossible because Leah is not well enough.

The film starts at Leah’s seventh birthday where she is celebrating and singing along to High School musical, and follows her for the next two-and-half years.

Lindsey tells the programme about how Leah was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick as a baby after she noticed her little girl seemed tired and fragile.

Both Lindsey and Leah’s father, Michael Garfitt, carry the gene but were unaware of it.

Lindsey, of Wansbeck Avenue, Fleetwood, says in the documentary: “Not too sure what the future holds for Leah. To be honest and true, your living in limbo.”

And dad Michael says of his precious daughter: “She has taught me to care for people more, I think.

“Just to enjoy what you’ve got.”