Group helped family with 'bent joints'
A MOTHER suffering from a genetic joint-deforming condition which both her children have inherited is shaving her head to raise money for a group which has supported them.
Ruth Lynham, 48, from Threemilestone, was born with arthrogyposis. The condition affects one in 15,000 people and causes multiple joint contractures – abnormal shortening – and muscle weakness, restricting mobility.
Her daughter Sarah, 20, was born with her feet curled, her big toes touching her calf muscles and her hands tightly clenched.
After about 30 operations she still has to use a wheelchair intermittently.
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Her son James, 18, was also born with the condition, which mainly affects his hands.
Bullied at school and branded 'crab hands' by some of his classmates, James has had 22 operations to slowly straighten out his fingers, but is still unable to flatten his hands.
Simple tasks like tying shoelaces and undoing a jar lid can prove impossible for James, especially in the cold when his knuckles quickly turn blue.
But he has stunned friends, teachers and doctors by completing a mechanic's course and dreams of becoming a rally driver.
Determined James said: "We're some of the luckier ones really. Some people's hands are twisted right around."
Mrs Lynham said: "Because I have lived with it as well it is easier for me to deal with both of my children suffering from the condition.
"The first eight years of having children we spent 90% of our time in hospital.
"When I was a child it was unheard of. I remember a consultant asking to send my notes to Scotland because they had found a child up there with a similar condition.
"It is often misdiagnosed and it looks like a classic case of arthritis, but it isn't."
Brother also affected
Mrs Lynham's brother is also affected, leaving him almost unable to open his mouth. The family attends annual conferences of support network The Arthrogyposis Group (TAG), where the fund-raising idea was brought up last year.
Oxford Brookes University student Sarah, who is studying to be a primary school teacher, shaved her head to raise money for the support group several years ago and donated her hair to a leukaemia charity to make a wig.
Now her mum and grandmother will shave their heads on April 1 to raise money for the group.
Mrs Lynham said: "I think I will actually be relieved to get rid of it. I prefer short hair."
To support their cause visit www.justgiving.com/Ruth-Lynham.