A brave little girl who suffers from a rare auto-immune disease has fought through the pain of her condition to start school.
Paityn Brannigan, five, has been forced to undergo gruelling treatment and even weekly doses of chemotherapy to counter the excruciating pain she suffers.
But little Paityn finally got her wish to start school this week at King’s Oak primary in Greenock, Inverclyde.
The schoolgirl suffers from a disease called juvenile dermatomyositis (JMD) – a condition so rare that doctors have often not heard of it.
The pain she suffers as a result means it is difficult for her even to climb into bed, and running around at a party can leave her exhausted.
But her proud family say that despite the pain she is never without a smile on her face.
Mum Shantelle Higgins, 28, a call centre team leader, from Greenock, said: “She couldn’t wait to start school but I can’t believe everything that she has been through.
“She lives in terrible pain and has to take so much medication.
“It is so bad she is incapable of actually feeling it, she doesn’t know any different.
“If Paityn goes to a birthday party and runs around, she has to come home and go for a sleep – it really drains her.
“”She is never away from hospital. But she is amazing at managing it all.”
The horrible disease first started to show as a rash and eventually caused severe muscle weakening, fatigue and constant pain.
Paityn is forced to take medication all day and has to carry a backpack with emergency injections and steroids.
But a result of being prescribed steroids to fight the disease, Paityn has experienced bad side effects such as adrenal insufficiency.
It means her body can’t cope with stress or sickness.
Shantelle added: “Paityn wasn’t diagnosed with JMD early enough because no one knew what it was.
“She was diagnosed at three.
“It started with a kind of butterfly rash caused by a bug or something.
“I went to the GP because of the rashes and they kept giving me cream for eczema.
“No one had ever heard of it before.
“Paityn and I had to go to a teaching session with top consultants to speak to them and explain the symptoms, so they would know what to look out for.
“When we go to A&E they never know what it is.”
Shantelle revealed that Paityn has to have weekly doses of methotrexate, a type of chemotherapy, to try and keep the disease at bay.
And she said it has been heartbreaking to watch her daughter suffer.
She said: “She had one of those cabin beds with stairs.
“She used to ask me every night to lift her and put her up on the bed and I just through that was what a wee girl would do.
“But it turned out she was in so much pain she just couldn’t put her feet on the steps. The doctors said it would have been too much for her to bear.”
Despite her suffering, brave Paityn was determined to start school this year and her family could not be more proud.
Shantelle added: “She could have went to school last year but I just thought she had been through enough. She was in such constant pain.
“It was great to see her walk through the door. I want Paityn to see that there is life after this.
“I don’t want her to grow up thinking that her life is restricted because of this, I want to show her what she can do.”
Paityn’s gran Margaret Higgins, 53, said she was proud of both her granddaughter and Shantelle for how they have dealt with it all.
She said: “You would never know there was anything wrong with her, just looking at her.
“She is a miracle and every day is a blessing. I honestly don’t know how Shantelle has coped with it all.
“They have been through so much.”