THE FAMILY of a Dorchester woman has raised over £13,000 for the hospital wards that saved her life after she was diagnosed with a rare brain disease.

Gemma Downton, aged 35, was rushed to Dorset County Hospital with a suspected stroke and when her condition worsened she was transferred to Southampton General hospital.

She was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, a rare brain disease which usually happens after a viral infection, and had part of her skull removed to stop her brain swelling.

She was in a coma for several weeks and after spending a month at Southampton General Hospital Gemma, who worked as a stockbroker before her illness, was transferred to Poole Hospital for rehabilitation.

Gemma’s mother Linda said: “It was very severe and happened so quickly. They said it was where she’s had a chest infection and somehow the cells started attacking her brain.”

Even Gemma’s recovery wasn’t smooth as she had a painful allergic reaction to her medicine that caused her skin to fall off.

Linda said: “She was pumped full of steroids and antibiotics must be allergic to something because a rash started to appear. She just started losing huge amounts of skin.

“The skin on her foot came off in one piece at one point. She had to have cream put on all the time.”

Gemma’s mother Linda, her friends Beth and Kerry and others organised a family fun day, bingo, and sponsored pool and darts and raised £13,233 for Southampton Hospital’s Charity Neurological Unit fund and Poole Hospital’s Portland ward.

The Sydney Arms pub in Dorchester also got involved with fundraising and Gemma’s male family and friends got waxed to raise cash for the cause.

“The hospitals spent about £120,000 treating her including a plasma exchange over three days. The treatments are so expensive but without them Gemma wouldn’t be where she is today. She’s their miracle girl,” Linda said.

“Gemma still does a lot of physio and hasn’t regained the use of her right hand yet but she’s doing really well. She’s started to read her first book since the illness which has been hard because it affected her short term memory. We got our daughter back, and at one point they couldn’t give us any hope.”

Linda would like to thank local businesses, many of whom donated prizes, along with their friends and the Dorchester and Crossways communities for their generosity.

If you would like to donate, please call Linda on 01305 853352.