‘One-in-lifetime opportunity’: Huge fundraiser to help Old Colwyn dad travel to Serbia in bid to restore sight

A HUGE fundraiser to raise £24,000 has been launched to enable a father-of-two to travel to Serbia in an attempt to get his sight back.

Ben Francis, 25, was diagnosed with a disease called Friedreich Ataxia, a rare inherited disease that causes progressive nervous system damage and movement problems, at the age of 11.

Ben, of Old Colwyn, who has partner Sara Ormond, struggles to do simple tasks such as cooking, pouring a glass of milk and getting around his home, but his biggest challenge is the loss of his eyesight.

Ben is not completely blind, he can see shapes and movement, but time is running out as Ben is deteriorating fast.

He posted on his GoFundMe page “my disability is killing me slowly, brutal way to say it but honest.”

The family are hoping to raise £24,000 so they can travel to Swiss Medica Clinic in Serbia. The clinic specialises in stem cell therapies.

Swiss Medica Clinic’s main therapeutic bases are located in Moscow and Belgrade (Serbia).

Speaking to the Pioneer and Journal, Ben said: “Serbia is just the one that suited me best with the doctors who can help me more, and they’re a stem cell facility, they specialise in stem cells.

“We have spoken to the doctor we are having and they are lovely. We went through everything with the specialists from the centre and they explained the whole procedure and answered all our questions.”

Ben, who attended Ysgol John Bright in Llandudno, has been with partner Sara for three years. The couple have two children: Ben’s step daughter Willow who is three and their son Cian, aged two.

Ben with his partner Sara Ormond and their son Cian

Ben with his partner Sara Ormond and their son Cian

Ben, who is unable to work but is a full time dad along with Sara who is a full time mum and has her own graphic design business, said: “I was diagnosed after having multiple tests from a doctor including blood tests, MRI scans and many others after being told by many doctors before that I was just clumsy. I was 11 when I was diagnosed. I would walk into everything to door frames to lamp posts, I’d trip over curbs and steps and I didn’t know why.

“The main challenges I face now is simple day to day activities like pouring a glass or milk, cooking, getting around my home. My eyesight is the main issue that is having the biggest impact in my life because I have children and my children mean everything to me.”

The couple did months of research before deciding on Serbia.

“Doctors said they couldn’t help,” Ben said.

“I listens to a lot of podcast and a popular podcaster called ‘Joe Rogan’ mentioned stem cells and how they help so we looked into that and found out it is perfect and has helped people like me before.

“The trip to Serbia will be an adventure for sure.

“I will be having many procedures such as intravenous injections and Retrobulbar injections plus much physiotherapy, mainly attacking my eye problems, and hopefully help my condition stop progressing.”

Sara, who attended Ysgol Bryn Elian in Old Colwyn, said it would mean “the world” to her and Ben and to their children if Ben could undergo the procedures.

“We just want Ben to be happy and to watch us all grow as a family, to see his kids laugh and smile.

“Ben is currently fully reliant on the wheelchair. He cannot walk at all, his disability has taken that away.

“Ben is not fully blind but he’s getting there. He can see shapes and movement and if he focuses long enough, he can pull out features and stuff but his eyesight is not good at all.

“All I want is for Ben to be happy.

“I want him to be able to get his eyesight back to do the things he loves, play with his children, maybe go back to basketball, possibly drive again. He could have his freedom and not feel trapped.

“The courage he has is amazing to deal with this. I’ve never met a man like him, honestly he is amazing.”

More than £5,000 has already been raised to help Ben.

Sara added: “The community has been amazing. £5,000 in such a little time was amazing and heart warming and we thank everyone so much.

“We would ideally like to travel asap hopefully end of April / May and do it as soon as we can because the longer we leave it, the worse Ben’s eyes will get and the worse his condition gets.

“The money is obviously very important to us because as a family with two kids and not much income we couldn’t afford it alone.

“We just want to give Ben the best chance and we appreciate everything.”

Ben says the procedure is not guaranteed.

“It has had amazing response and has worked for hundreds of people so were hoping for the best,” he added.

To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/help-to-let-me-see-my-children-grow-up

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno