THE family of a toddler diagnosed with a rare muscle disease have thanked the community for rallying around.

Nancie Seaber was born a healthy 7lbs 6.5oz at Colchester General Hospital in June 2009.

But early last year, her parents Philip and Gemma began to notice Nancie was struggling to sit up and crawl around their home in Talisman Walk, Tiptree.

Although friends and medical experts told them babies developed at different speeds, Gemma said her “mother’s instinct” told her something was wrong.

Eventually, she was referred to a neurologist in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, where Nancie was diagnosed with type 2 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which affects one in 6,000 babies.

The life-limiting disease affects muscles throughout the body, affecting those needed to crawl, walk, swallow and control the head and neck.

Gemma, 27, said both she and Philip, 36, struggled to accept the news.

She said: “I didn’t really believe it was actually my child they were talking about.

“I didn’t want to believe it, and thought they must have got something wrong. We felt like the whole world had been swept from underneath us.”

But once friends and family in Tiptree, Tolleshunt Knights and Woodham Mortimer started to hear about Nancie’s disease, they started organising charity events to support her.

Sister Kellie Jewell raised £1,800 by getting her head shaved at the Hurdlemakers Arms, in Woodham Mortimer, while Tolleshunt Knights Eagles Youth Football Club collected £1,244.44 through a bingo night.

A further £100 has come from the Co-operative Community Group, in Tiptree, while a further fundraiser is planned for Tolleshunt Knights Village Hall, on March 12.

Gemma and Philip, a self-employed glazier, set up the Friends of Nancie Rose foundation, and the money will go towards buying a “Wizzybug”, an introductory mobility car, which is the first step towards an electric wheelchair.

Gemma described the support as “absolutely phenomenal”.

She said: “We felt very isolated until we realised how many people out there were supporting us.

“I think the whole of Tiptree, Tolleshunt Knights and Woodham Mortimer have got involved.”

“Nancie is just completely something else. She’s just an absolute joy, she really is.

“She smiles every single day, and that’s what keeps us going.

“Everybody we see in the village just falls in love with her.

“She’s just one of those children who has got something special about her, and draws people to her. We would go to the end of the world for her.”

To get involved with the Friends of Nancie Rose Foundation, call the Seaber family on 01621 815653.