Big-hearted rocker Sir Rod Stewart is paying for a young fan to receive pioneering treatment in the US for a rare genetic disorder. After meeting at a charity auction on Thursday, the singing legend offered to dig deep and help Abi Evans, 20, who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and is unable to walk.
After catching Rod’s eye, he came over to chat. Abi, who is training with the Red Arrows to be a pilot, said: “Rod was rushing through the room and I caught his gaze. He came over and I introduced myself.
“I told him I’ve got a rare condition. He immediately wanted to hear more. I explained all about Ehlers-Danlos, that it was degenerative, that I have a paralysed stomach and nerve damage in my legs which means I can’t walk, but there was a possibility of treatment abroad that could make me better.”
That’s when Rod broke the news that could change Abi’s life.
“He is sending me to get stem cell treatment in America,” Abi said. “And more than that he is going to help in a number of other ways.
“I explained how a rare condition like mine hugely benefits from awareness, that leads to advances in research. He understood that and with his profile said he would help.
“He loved my story, he also wants to make life a bit better for other people with the condition as well.
“He can share what’s needed with the public. We also discussed that if the medical experts there can do any research on me, that may ultimately help other people with the condition as well.”
Rod, 78, who also recently paid for people to have scans at his local NHS hospital, was attending a fundraising auction for the mental health charity My Black Dog, in Canary Wharf, east London, when he met Abi.
Speaking to the Sunday Express, Rod said: “The evening was lovely, it was brilliant to be there. Abi is a wonderful girl, I loved our time together and it will be great to be able to help her.”
Researchers in America are pioneering a new treatment that grows skin cells using stem cells that have the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome gene mutations removed.
The hope is these modified stem cells will grow new cells in areas where there is inflammation and restore function to damaged joints.
Abi first started having complications from the disease at 15 and stomach paralysis meant she had to have a feeding tube inserted.
“I didn’t know what it was until I was 17. I told Rod about my flying scholarship – I have been training with the Red Arrows – and he was really interested.
“Just to have his support and belief is amazing, never mind the travel and medical help.”
Abi first took control in the cockpit when she was 19 and said it had been her childhood dream. She applied to Flying Scholarships for Disabled People in 2019 and was selected for training in Lincolnshire with the RAF’s display team.
Rod even sold the shoes off his feet to raise cash on the night, said host and DJ Eddy Temple-Morris.
“Rod was incredible, a force of nature,” he said.
“Jeffrey Archer, who was our auctioneer, literally charmed the shoes off his feet and spontaneously auctioned them off for £4,500.”
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