A WOMAN who can barely walk has pledged to swim half a mile to raise awareness for her rare condition – even if it kills her.
Carol Blanco, 45, from Southchurch, can only walk a few paces unaided, needs help carrying a cup of coffee and cannot swim breast stroke as she is too weak to lift her head due to a terminal muscle, bone and brain disease suffered by just a handful of people worldwide.
But the former nurse is determined to take part in the Great North Swim across Lake Windermere in the Lake District on Saturday, June 14, to raise awareness of her genetic condition, which is called inclusion body myopathy with early-onset Paget disease and frontotemporal dementia.
Mrs Blanco, of Shaftesbury Avenue, said: “I’m nervous, but it’s something that keeps me swimming during the week.
“They are going to push my wheelchair down to the edge of the lake and put me in. Everyone thinks I’m a loony, but if I drown, I drown.”
Doctors took six years to diagnose Mrs Blanco’s condition, which causes muscle weakness, bone pain and dementia, as, other than her case, it has only been recorded in three Italian families, two families in Spain and several in the USA.
A carer has to help her with even the simplest tasks, such as showering, hanging the washing or filling the dishwasher.
But Mrs Blanco, who worked in Southend and Basildon Hospitals and lectured at South Essex College before ill health forced her to retire, is swimming 800m twice a week at Southend Swimming and Diving Centre, at Garon Park, to prepare for the open water challenge.
The mother-of-two, whose 20-year-old son, Alex, is going to do the swim with her, said: “I can’t do breast stroke because I can’t hold my head up, so I do front crawl or back stroke.
“I can’t lift my head up to see where I’m going, so my carer has to swim behind me in case someone is coming the other way.
“I can only just walk from the car park to the swimming pool – it feels like a bi-athlon!”