A young woman with cerebral palsy is fundraising for a £45,000 operation – so she can walk tall beside her able-bodied identical twin sister.
Shauney Huntriss, 22, is unable to stand without crutches but dreams of walking alongside sister Hollie, who carries guilt for being the healthy twin.
The condition has not stopped her finding love – and she is happier than ever since meeting boyfriend Danny Seed, 21, on a dating website for people with disabilities.
But Shauney dreams of having a life-changing surgery – unavailable on the NHS – in a bid to walk unaided.
It will give Shauney the freedom she experiences when swimming – a favourite pastime because she feels able to walk in the water.
The sisters had twin-twin transfusion syndrome, a rare condition which occurs when identical twins share a placenta.
Blood flows unevenly between the babies with Shauney receiving excessive levels which led to a brain haemorrhage.
While Hollie was brought off a ventilator after six hours, Shauney remained under hospital supervision for two weeks.
She has had ten operations to improve her walking, including inserting a metal rod to strengthen a dislocated hip and botox to tighten the leg muscles.
The operation she aims to undergo is called selective dorsal rhizotomy which improves muscle spasticity – caused by unbalanced signals from the central nervous system.
It involves cutting nerve rootlets in the spinal cord which send abnormal signals to the muscles.
Shauney, who wants to become a receptionist, said: “Hollie and I have always said we wish both of us could be normal or both have cerebral palsy.
“I’ve always thought of Hollie as a miracle because she is leading a healthy life and avoided treatment.
“The operation would mean I could walk alongside her – something I’ve never been able to properly do.
“I have two crutches but can only walk a short distance before getting out of breath.
“It isn’t fun walking around – I love shopping but I get out of breath in a shopping centre so it becomes an exhausting experience.
“I hate the wheelchair because I was bullied in secondary school and called ‘spaz’ – I want to show people I can do it myself.
“One of my favourite things is swimming because I feel like I’m walking in the water – it’s the only time I feel like a normal person.”
Shauney, from Morecambe, Lancs., is supported by her autistic boyfriend Danny and one-year-old dog Bau, who she would love to take on walks.
Her and Danny met on an online dating website for disabled people and are described as “the perfect match” eight months into their relationship
Hollie, an administrator for a private health clinic, set her sister up on the website – and says Danny, a dog groomer, has “drastically improved” her well-being.
She said: “I set her up on the dating website and didn’t think anything of it but she was quietly chatting away on it.
“It’s like a fairytale, they’re so perfect together – Danny looks out for her and is always there.
“He is constantly sharing the fundraising page online and posting that he loves her.
“She has learned a lot from him – they bake together when she stays at his house and is making her more independent.
“This is the happiest she has been – she was depressed for a period before but she doesn’t stop smiling now.”
Selective dorsal rhizotomy is unavailable on the NHS and is being trialled on children this year – but Shauney says she isn’t holding her breath.
Hollie, who lives in Glasgow with boyfriend Josh Mullen, 21, said: “It’s hard being away from her but we used to share a room so it’s nice for us both to get a bit of space.
“It was great as children because I always had a best friend – we had different social groups but if I fell out with anyone I would always have Shauney to talk to.
“We went to concerts as a family but Shauney was never able to go because it’s hard or her to be on crutches or in a wheelchair at the venue.
“I have always felt a bit guilty being able to go out and dance knowing that Shauney couldn’t.
“She loves swimming because she can always up with us.
“We would spend hours in the pool as kids because it was the only time she felt normal.
“It would be amazing for her to walk unaided.
“At the moment going out seems like such a hard task – it takes her three times as long than anyone else because she’s on crutches.”
Shauney, who studied health and social care at college, has raised over £1,000 for the surgery but hopes telling her story will improve the campaign.
If you’d like to donate, go to: https://uk.gofundme.com/56fmxh4