The themes of Rare Disease Day 2021 – rare is many, rare is strong, rare is proud.

This is our story representing these themes.

Pseudo Obstruction (CIPO) is a rare and potentially debilitating bowel motility disease where the complications can be life threatening. PORT (Pseudo Obstruction Research Trust) is a small charity that was founded in 2006. It was founded in the memory of a beautiful little girl named Emily; whose life was cruelly taken by complications relating to this disease. Amidst this awful loss two friends, Emily’s mum Sonia and friend Sue founded PORT. They wanted to create a legacy for Emily, to fund research to improve the lives of others with the condition, and to support people with the disease so sufferers and their families wouldn’t have to go through the journey alone. Their initial determination to do something positive lives on in PORT today. PORT has a flourishing Facebook group. Although the disease is rare, many come together as a community, supporting one another and offering invaluable advice from lived experience. The closed Facebook support group really is an example of rare is many at its finest. People come together, of all different ages, parents with babies suffering from the condition, to adult children whose parents suffer with the disease, as well as many seeking personal advice too. From a small group that started in Essex, PORT now offers support to those all over the UK, and internationally too. It’s a forum to support each other through the difficult times, but also to celebrate the good.

PORT has also demonstrated time and time again rare is strong. The initial aim to fund research into this rare disease, still remains at the heart of the charity. Sonia and Sue showed incredible strength when they established PORT, and that continues today. Despite our families going through huge amounts, on a daily basis, the fundraising efforts have been and continue to be phenomenal. Right now, one of our trustees who has a son, Charlie, with the disease, has been intensively training for the London Marathon 2021. He had barely run before, but his determination to accomplish this challenge is nothing short of inspiring. His drive to complete the task has been matched by his fundraising efforts and the support of his wider friends and family, who know Charlie and what he and the family have to endure with the disease day in day out.

Rare is strong is lived out on a daily basis by all the adults and children with this disease. Getting up in the morning, and going about one’s day, whilst having to contend with severe pain, sickness and the countless medical procedures and appliances such as intravenous feeding, stoma bags and tubes, all demonstrate rare is strong. Not many people have to train to be nurses to receive their nutrition, or administer nutrition to their loved ones, or to be vigilant for the signs of sepsis due to having a central line into their bloodstream, but this is daily life for many sufferers of CIPO. And at the helm of PORT is the Chair Sue Stewart, who works tirelessly, with compassion and strength, to keep PORT going – rare is strong!

PORT might be a small charity run solely by volunteers, but the impact it has made and continues to make is undeniable. Over £750,000 has gone towards research. This is research that would not have gone ahead if PORT did not exist. This is just a glimpse into all the work that goes on behind the scenes for the research to happen. All the links and relationships that have been forged and all the research that has been scrutinised before being funded. For this we at PORT are extremely proud. We are proud of all that PORT has achieved, all the people that have been given hope, advice and information right through their journeys, from before their diagnosis right through to living with the disease. We are extremely proud of the amazing legacy that has been created in Emily’s memory, and all those that have gained strength through PORT.

PORT really epitomise rare is many, rare is strong and rare is proud and the following testimonials from members substantiate this too.

‘This charity has been an invaluable support platform, providing not only incredible contributions to research and treatments, but also providing sufferers and families with a voice.’

‘One of the biggest things for me is PORT has given me hope that one day a cure will be found, it gives me comfort that I’m not alone in this battle and it’s given me support and friendship when I’m feeling alone and isolated.’

‘PORT’s efforts provide hope that people living with these conditions might have a better future.’

‘Sharing stories, advice and well wishes with others is invaluable when you have a family member with a rare and debilitating illness.’