CHILD HEALTH – Michael Owen has admitted he ‘goes to bed every night praying’ there will be a cure found for the genetic condition which left his son James clinically blind.
The former England striker, 44, appeared on Tuesday’s episode of Good Morning Britain with James, 17, to discuss his son’s rare and incurable genetic condition.
James was diagnosed with Stargardt disease at the age of eight, forcing him to give up his dream of becoming a professional footballer as his sight got progressively worse throughout his teenage years, leaving him ‘clinically’ blind.
What is Stargardt Disease?
Stargardt is a rare genetic condition which occurs when fatty material builds up on the macula – the small part of the retina needed for sharp, central vision. There is currently no cure.
Speaking of James’ diagnosis on GMB, Michael admitted it was a difficult time for him and his wife Louise and said they still ‘pray’ ‘every night’ for a cure to be found for the rare condition.
He said: ‘I suppose as a parent, myself and my wife probably felt far worse than James, which sounds really bad.
‘You want to take all the pain away from him, you feel sorry for him every time he goes to hospital and gets new drops that make his eyes sting and he’s crying all day.
The Tragedy of the Parent
As a parent, myself and my life probably felt much worse than James, you want to take all the pain away from him, but James was born that way, he doesn’t know any different.
‘I think it was quite hard for us when we found out that this was an incurable disease at the moment.
‘We live in an age with stem cells that we go to bed every night praying something will be there to cure him, but at the moment, it’s a condition that regresses over time.’
Michael went on to tell how they always try to look at the ‘positives’ as a family, with the former footballer explaining how his son has never known any different.
‘It’s water off a duck’s back to us, it’s just news to the world, but we’ve been living it for a long time,’ he went on.
‘We just try to look at the positives. I’m a taxi driver for life and I am delighted about that. It keeps us close.’
What James Said
James added: ‘I didn’t know any different because it’s always been that way for me. I’ve always seen like that, apparently I have some bind spots and its blurry in some areas. But I don’t know any different.’
James – whose sister is Love Island star Gemma Owen – spoke about his hopes of being a professional footballer as a child, insisting his famous sportsman father would never ‘pressure’ him into the sport.
James now plays for a visually impaired football team and said it was a ‘relief’ to find other people like him to play with as he gushed over how ‘happy’ he is now.
‘It was just how I was living. It’s still a bit of a shock that people don’t think of me as being visually impaired,’ he said.
James is gearing up to celebrate his 18th birthday on February 6 and sweetly said he will likely spend the day with his father Michael and his friends.