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County Durham nine-year-old Max Austin is to receive the special height adjustable bed he so desperately needs, thanks to the kind-hearted donations of Northern Echo readers.

Born after just 23 weeks of pregnancy, Max spent the first 100 days of his life in hospital. He battled septicaemia twice and a devastating illness which left him with just half a bowel. He was also diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy which affects both his arms and legs, means he has no head control and needs support with sitting. Max also has no peripheral vision and although he can say a few words, he communicates through blinking.

Max lives with his mum, Leeann Harker, along with baby brother, Flynn, in the market town of Crook. However, with only a standard bed for him to sleep in, mum struggles to move him in and out as it isn’t compatible with a hoist and she is struggling to lift him. This means even simple everyday tasks such as dressing him prove difficult.

Unable to fund the £1,146 bed Max needs herself, Leeann turned to Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness for help – however as the charity has an increasing volume of applications, they contacted the Echo on the family’s behalf to issue an appeal for local heroes to come forward to help fund the equipment. An overwhelming response means Max will now have the bed which will make such a difference to his life, allowing him to get in and out of bed much more easily.

Leeann said: “I’m am overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of people especially at this time of year when money is tight.

“Having this bed means I won’t have to lift him so much, which will be less stressful for him and me. This will make our lives much easier.”

Newlife’s Head of Operations, Stephen Morgan, said: “We would like to thank the newspaper for highlighting Max’s situation and thank all those amazing people who read his story and contributed. This bed will make a huge difference to this little boy’s life.” Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of the money donated to help Max will be used to fund his special bed. Any surplus funding will help provide equipment for other disabled children in the county as Max is one of four families in County Durham currently working with the charity.

To discover how you can help children like Max in County Durham, visit Alternatively, contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444, or email

For full details of Newlife Foundation’s range of practical support for disabled and terminally ill children and their families, call the Newlife Nurse Helpline – 0800 902 0095 (free from UK landlines and mobiles) – or go to:

Pictured: Max Austin