x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Skydiving mums do it for love of Luca

'Four Mums for Luca' overcome fears to skydive to raise awareness of an illness that has struck down a three-year-old boy.

Annah Lewis with her daughter Taylah, Jilly Witcomb, Jane Gammage and Rebecca Byrne with her daughter Brooke.
Annah Lewis with her daughter Taylah, Jilly Witcomb, Jane Gammage and Rebecca Byrne with her daughter Brooke.

DUBAI // Four mothers jumped from a plane in Dubai yesterday in support of a three-year-old boy who has lost his legs to a rare illness.

Annah Lewis, Rebecca Byrne, Jane Gammage and Jilly Witcomb decided to raise awareness for the campaign, Raise Your Hands for Luca.

It was started by the parents of Luca Williams, a youngster in Wales stricken four months ago by meningococcal septicaemia, a bacterial infection that erodes the walls of blood vessels.

Luca's parents noticed he had broken out in a purple rash when he was put to bed on January 6.

He was rushed to hospital and spent two weeks in intensive care in an induced coma, with doctors giving him only a 3 per cent chance of survival.

His parents decided to launch their campaign to raise awareness about meningococcal septicaemia and to raise £1.5 million (Dh8.7m) to buy Luca prosthetic legs.

They have received support worldwide and the UAE ranks fourth for countries with the biggest following for Luca on social-media websites.

The campaign has also been supported by celebrities appearing in photos with "For Luca" written on their hands.

Ms Lewis started the UAE awareness campaign in support of Luca's father, Mohammad Syed, who was a childhood friend.

The group, who call themselves, 4 Mums for Luca, jumped from 13,000 feet with Skydive Dubai at the Palm Jumeirah.

It was Mrs Byrne's first dive.

"Annah had been pursuing me for a while to do skydiving so when she called and said that we need to raise awareness for Luca, I suggested skydiving," she said.

"It's not something that all people would do. It is a risky and scary sport but it is a challenge and Luca will have a challenge for the rest of his life."

Once Mrs Byrne was in the air and saw the first mother jump and disappear, she became scared. But she had to jump.

"I was thinking, 'Rebecca, you did it'," she said.

A group of supporters, mainly family and friends, gathered at Skydive Dubai to cheer the four women.

Mrs Witcomb said taking part was important to her as her sister had died of meningitis as a baby. Her husband, Nigel, also had a family friend who died of the condition.

"There is a lack of awareness of the illness," Mrs Witcomb said.

Working with children encouraged Mrs Gammage, a nursery manager and mother of two, to join the group.

"It was the perfect reason to do something like this," she said. "He is such a resilient little boy."

wissa@thenational.ae