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28 April 2016

What Would Be Your Miracle

In this brand new series Emma Willis follows the inspirational and emotional stories of people whose lives are transformed by the power of modern medicine, people who are all hoping for miracles.

In each episode, Emma meets two people having incredible operations in the hope of changing their lives and those of their families forever.  Over two years, Emma charts the progress of these ordinary families going through extraordinary times. 

Having had their operations and, in some cases, endured months and months of rehabilitation, they reach the moment they find out if the miracle they've dreamed of for years will happen. From parents watching their 10-year-old child try to take his very first unaided steps, to a daughter hearing her dad's voice through her new cochlear implants and a woman seeing after 30 years of blindness, these are the incredible, climactic moments when they realise that life could be changing forever.

And now thanks to modern medicine, it's possible to fulfil their dreams. From scoring a goal in front of thousands of football fans, to taking a class at the Royal Ballet School to flying through the sky, in this heart-warming series, experiences which, for them, were previously impossible, become a reality.

In episode one, Emma is in Aberdare, South Wales, to meet nine-year-old Garin Morgan, his parents Ashley and Adele, and big sister Emily.

Despite being a strong, healthy baby, Garin soon began to show signs that he was different to other children. At the age of two he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and his parents were told it meant their son would never walk.

Dad Ashley says:"That hit me very hard. How do you feel? How do you cope? You start running through his life in fast-forward. How's he going to get a job? How's it going to affect his life as an adult?"

Garin tells Emma:"At playtime it is quite hard for me. Sometimes some of my friends play football. I feel quite upset because they're all having fun and I'm just like on my own and nobody to play with."

Asked by Emma what his miracle would be, Garin says:"To play football."

In the same week Garin was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, his mum Adele fell ill and was told she had multiple sclerosis, meaning she too is in a wheelchair and unable to walk unaided. It's another reason his parents are longing for him to leave his wheelchair behind.

For years, Garin and his parents have hoped that modern medicine would offer him the chance of making his dreams come true, and now, thanks to surgery pioneered in America, there's a possibility it will.

Just two months after a successful operation at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, in which nerves that connect Garin's brain to his legs were cut, and the subsequent physiotherapy, this young boy's life could be about to change forever. As he prepares to step from his wheelchair and walk unaided for the very first time his family and specialist team urge him forward.

Nearly a year later Emma catches up with the family, and there's a surprise visit to Cardiff City Stadium for Garin, who has the chance to fulfil his dream of playing football and scoring a goal.

Also in episode one, Emma meets 55-year-old Andrea Dodds, a mother-of-two from Burnley, who has always had a close relationship with her mother June.

As June says: "Andrea was a lovely little girl, jovial, bubbly. Me and her, we've the same sense of humour. We could fall on the floor laughing at things."

Diagnosed as partially deaf as a child, Andrea used hearing aids, but as she got older her hearing got much worse and she came to rely on lip-reading.

However, on a family trip to the seaside Andrea became concerned there was also something wrong with her eyes. She was then diagnosed with Usher Syndrome and told that as well as being deaf she was also going blind.

Today, Andrea can no longer see well enough to read lips, and as her condition means that what hearing she does have is fading all the time, her hearing aids are now nearly completely useless.

Currently there is no cure for Andrea's eyesight, but she is about to be thrown a lifeline and undergo an operation to be fitted with a cochlear implant, in the hope that it will allow her to hear.

Andrea says:"I could be in total silence and it's terrifying to think that everything's going to be cut off from you. If suddenly you can't see or hear anything, it scares me to death…I don't want to be like this, I hate it. That's why I've got to take this chance, it's got to work."

Implanted behind Andrea's ear, the coin-sized device, when switched on, will feed sound directly to her brain, though with no guarantee she will instantly be able to hear.

Andrea say: "I'm hoping it's going to give me something back of my old life. If I can join in again with conversation, with family, with friends, then that would be my miracle."

Undergoing the procedure at Manchester Royal Infirmary, Andrea returns one month later where the implant is switched on for the first time. However, Andrea's brain is unable to understand the sounds the implant is sending it.

She says:"Oh my god, what is this? I can't tell you what it sounds like. Oh my god, my voice. I can't make a single word out. My own voice sounds weird. Oh god, oh god, I don't like this, I don't like it. It sounds so weird."

All Andrea can do is wait in the hope that with practice her brain learns to make sense of the sounds.

Emma says:"It was so sad to see how much it knocked her and how it wasn't what she wanted to hear. But you can only hope that this will work for her because this is her last chance, this is it for her."

Six weeks later Andrea returns to see how her brain is managing the implant.  Because Andrea loved music so much when she was younger, Deborah the Audiologist wants to see if she is now able to hear it again.

One of her favourite songs -(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me- is played, leading to a nervous wait to tell if Andrea is able to hear it once again. Thankfully, it's not long before her face lights up and she begins to smile.

Selective dorsal rhizotomy

Garin pictured with presenter Emma Willis