Brave Evie battles coeliac disease

Evie (six) with her mum Rebecca and younger sister Lucy (two). (s)
Evie (six) with her mum Rebecca and younger sister Lucy (two). (s)

A six-year-old girl who was recently diagnosed with coeliac disease is baking gluten free buns to raise funds for a charity which supports people with the illness.

St James’ CE Primary School pupil Evie Whittaker was diagnosed with the disease at the beginning of the year.

She had no other symptoms apart from this lethargy – she could hardly walk home after school and would fall asleep straight after school. She has missed out on lots of after-school clubs because she has just been too exhausted

Mum Rebecca Whittaker

“Evie was really sleepy all the time,” explained her mum Rebecca (34), who works at a special needs school in Burnley. “She had no other symptoms apart from this lethargy – she could hardly walk home after school and would fall asleep straight after school. She has missed out on lots of after-school clubs because she has just been too exhausted.”

After suffering from regular urine infections Evie was placed under consultant-led care.

“She’s not a brilliant eater and they thought she could be low in iron. They ended up doing tests and two blood tests tested positive for coeliac disease,” Rebecca added.

Evie now has to follow a strict diet which is gluten, wheat, oat, barley and rice free.

Parents Rebecca and John (34), who works at British Aerospace at Wharton, brother Simon (10) and younger sister Lucy (two), live with Evie at Milton Avenue, Clitheroe,

Rebecca explained that although it can prove a challenge managing the disease particularly when the child is a fussy eater, friends and the wider community have been very supportive.

In fact, at a recent birthday party that Evie was attending, the child’s mother went out of her way to make gluten free fish fingers and chips as well as gluten free buns for all the children.

“I had been prepared to make a special packed lunch up for Evie, but this mum went out of her way so that Evie would not feel different or left out,” said Rebecca.

To raise more awareness about the disease and to raise funds for the charity Coeliac UK Evie and her mum are baking enough buns for all the infant children at St James’ – 131 in total. These will be sold on Friday May 15th, during coeliac disease awareness week which runs from Monday May 11th to Sunday May 17th.

Coeliac affects at least one in 100 people in the UK, but only 24% of people with the condition are medically diagnosed. This is done by a simple blood test to check for antibodies.

The life-long autoimmune disease is triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. For people with coeliac eating gluten damages the lining of the gut, which prevents normal digestion and absorption of food.

If a gluten diet is not followed the disease can lead to nutritional deficiencies and is linked with osteoporosis, cancer of the small bowel and infertility problems. The disease can run in the family.

Symptoms range from mild to severe and can vary between individuals. Some people experience diarrhoea, nausea, stomach pains, cramping, bloating, constipation, tiredness, anaemia, regular mouth ulcers, sudden or unexpected weight loss, headaches, hair loss, skin rash, dermatitis, herpetiformis, short stature, osteoporosis and joint or bone pain.

Evie (six) with her mum Rebecca and younger sister Lucy (two). (s)