WHEN young Jacob Whitehouse was diagnosed with a rare brain disease six months ago, doctors predicted he had just two years to live.

But thanks to a huge local fundraising campaign, the popular 10-year-old pupil at Stourfield Junior School in Southbourne, Bournemouth, has been given the chance to try pioneering stem cell therapy.

Jacob is thought to be the first child in the world with Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) – an inherited disorder that leads to progressive brain damage – to try this treatment at a state-of-the art health clinic in Germany.

And his parents, April and Martin, who live with Jacob and his younger brother Sam in Tuckton, say that he is already defying medical opinion here in the UK.

“Six months ago they told us that Jacob would be bedridden by now, but he is back at school full-time and is able to hold a pencil again,” says April.

The family flew out to Germany in February this year for Jacob’s first stem cell lumbar puncture at a cost of around £10,000, which includes intense physiotherapy.

They hope to return in August for follow-up treatment.

Although it’s still early days, April says they are doing everything they can to give their son a fighting chance against a condition which, until October last year, they knew nothing about.

“Jacob started acting a bit strangely during our holiday in Turkey last June. Sometimes he was a bit disorientated, but it was hard to work out if he was mucking about or not, as he is a practical joker,” April explains.

“But then he started falling over so when we got home we got him a doctor’s appointment and he was referred to Poole Hospital.

“By this time his walking had started to deteriorate, he had shakes and tremors, but nobody seemed to be listening to us because they hadn’t a clue what it was.

“Eventually I managed to get him an emergency MRI and that was when we were told he had this extremely rare progressive brain disease.

“But what was worse was that they said there’s no cure, and not really any treatment apart from putting him on a low-fat diet and giving him Lorenzo’s Oil.

“We just couldn’t take this in at first. We came back from hospital totally shell-shocked.

“But we refused to believe there was nothing that could be done and that’s when we decided we would find a treatment.”

For the next few months the couple researched the condition, which is when they came cross the Xcell centre in Dusseldorf.

“The problem is that there are only 70 kids in the whole of the UK who have ALD, so there isn’t any funding for it,” says April. “We managed to raise enough money for Jacob’s first treatment through family, but then word got out and the local support we’ve had has been absolutely amazing.”

Over the past few months, parents, pupils and staff at both Stourfield First and Junior Schools have organised a series of events for Jacob, raising a total of £7,647 so far.

April and Martin are now in the process of setting up a website to keep all Jacob’s supporters up to date with his progress.

“The physiotherapists taught Jacob how to walk properly with special machines and treadmills and they have been re-training his brain teaching him to read and write again.

“It’s very intensive and it feels like we have a mountain to climb, but with all this fantastic local support behind us, we feel that anything is possible.”

To find out more about Jacob’s fundraising appeal, please visit justgiving.com/trustforjacob.