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Oxford University hopeful with 1 in a million liver condition 'not eligible' for powered wheelchair

ByEleanor Perkins

An Oxford University hopeful with a one in a million liver condition is not eligible for a powered wheelchair on the NHS because she can still walk with aids.

Straight-A student Hannah Bullard has been told she does not meet the criteria for the device by Kent and Medway Wheelchair Service, despite only being able to walk 30 metres with aids on a good day.

A manual wheelchair is out of the question for the 18-year-old who, in addition to Budd-Chiari syndrome of the liver, has a connective tissue disorder, a pituitary tumour and neutrophilic dermatosis which causes large, painful blisters on her hands.

Hannah explains her story here

The food blogger who was fast tracked a year in the schooling system because of her academic ability now fears she will not be able to attend university to fulfil her dream of studying biomedical science.

She has launched a campaign to raise £10,000 to help fund the device as well as a hoist for her car, a spare battery and future servicing.

She told KentOnline: "I always assumed I'd go to university like everybody else and be able to but now that's potentially not going to happen, it's really scary.

"What do I do instead? I can't work a normal full time job at Sainsburys or McDonald's because of my health, either.

"It seems the alternative is leaving me at home to do nothing but that's not what I want to do. I want to study and I want to work."

Hannah Bullard says going to university would be "impossible" without a powered wheelchair
Hannah Bullard says going to university would be "impossible" without a powered wheelchair

Hannah lives in St George's Road in Sandwich with her mum, Michelle Harrison, and two younger sisters.

She enjoyed a regular and active childhood before developing health problems just a month before her 12th birthday.

Since then her condition has deteriorated steadily to the point that she is unable to walk unaided.

She suffers sickness as a result of her Budd-Chiari syndrome which affects only one in a million people.

The veins which take blood away from Hannah's liver are blocked with clots meaning her liver is unable to filter the blood efficiently and she will eventually need a liver transplant.

Her connective tissue disorder results in her being unable to build muscle and causes many debilitating and painful symptoms including joint and muscle pain, migraines, dizziness and chronic fatigue.

She therefore uses crutches and a walker and relies on family members to push her in a manual wheelchair.

Hannah Bullard is unable to self propel a wheelchair because she suffers with blisters on her hands (10498311)
Hannah Bullard is unable to self propel a wheelchair because she suffers with blisters on her hands (10498311)

Long hospital stays and four life-saving procedures over the past two years means Hannah has missed chunks of schooling.

She restarted her A-levels at Simon Langton Girls Grammar School in Canterbury in September 2018.

She attends three to four mornings a week and is determined to achieve her A-Levels which she is predicted to achieve a minimum of AAA in biology, maths and further maths.

She will be applying to universities for a September 2020 start and is considering applying to Oxford, Southampton, Surrey and Sussex Universities.

Hannah Bullard is fundraising for a powered wheelchair (10264514)
Hannah Bullard is fundraising for a powered wheelchair (10264514)

Ms Harrison who is training to become a social worker has described her daughter's situation as both "frustrating" and "heartbreaking".

She said: "It would mean the world [to have the wheelchair] because going to university is what Hannah has always wanted.

"She should be able to go to university just like anybody else her age. The fact her body lets her down is neither here nor there.

"She is so academic and so clever that she could really contribute to the world.

Oxford University hopeful Hannah Bullard with cat Bella who keeps her company on bad days
Oxford University hopeful Hannah Bullard with cat Bella who keeps her company on bad days

"She wants to, she wants to go to work rather than be a drain on society but the powered wheelchair is what's missing.

"Without that she won't be able to have her independence or go to uni or go to work.

"This isn’t right for a young woman who wants to go out and live life as anyone else her age would.”

Kent and Medway Wheelchair Service has been approached for comments.

Donate to Hannah's wheelchair fund here.

For more real life stories, click here.

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