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February 21, 2004

Heartbreak family forced to sell store

From: Halifax Today, UK - Feb 21, 2004

A DETERMINED father is selling the family business to help his tragic four-year-old daughter.

Little Rebecca Bedford cannot walk, talk or feed herself, and now dad Stefan has decided to close the Elland business his family started in 1926 to raise £20,000 to make her life easier.

The battling tot's parents hope to adapt their home at Kilnhurst Road, Todmorden, as they fear her condition, which has baffled doctors around the country, will deteriorate as she gets older.

"It is very sad, but family comes first, so along with my mother and brother we decided to close the business," said Stefan, 34, who worked at hardware store Market Warehouse, Southgate, for 20 years.

"It means I'll be able to spend more time with Rebecca and raise funds."

Soon after Rebecca was born her parents found out she was deaf, and the toddler underwent a cochlear implant at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

Stefan and wife Jeanette went to night classes in sign language, teaching Rebecca what they learned, and it seemed she was progressing well.

But aged three she had a short virus, followed by weakness in the left side of her body.

"She lost the use of her left hand, and this spread down her body," said Stefan. "It was as if she'd had a mini stroke, and over the weeks and months it affected her whole. It was heartbreaking to watch."

The worried parents took Rebecca for countless tests, including a trip to Great Ormond Street, the London children's hospital, but medical experts are still clueless.

"We're having one more round of tests, and that's it," said Jeanette, 34, who juggles caring for Rebecca with bringing up 18-month-old brother Christian.

Brave Rebecca must now face an operation in March to insert a feeding tube into her body.

"We have mixed feelings about the tube - in some ways it's a relief she'll be getting food, but then it's so heartbreaking she has to go through that."

The couple have remortgaged their house to fund work on the family home, which will include a purpose-built bedroom and bathroom with wheelchair access.

They are appealing to local firms to help them buy equipment and some kind-hearted businesses have already offered to help them.

"Rebecca's had tests all her life to find out what is wrong with her, but nobody knows and that's so frustrating," said Stefan. "It's terrifying not knowing how far she will deteriorate or how long she's expected to live, but we have to be positive."

Anyone who wants to raise money for the Rebecca Bedford Appeal can contact Dawn Hartley at Community Support Services on 01422 885223.

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