Father on Niemann-Pick disease killing his son

Calum Burdon and John Higgins
Image caption Calum Burdon with three times World Snooker Champion John Higgins

Carl and Emma Burdon, like most parents, want to fill their child's life with as much love as they can.

Every moment with their six-year-old son Calum is particularly precious to the Freckleton couple, though, because he has a rare genetic disorder.

Calum has Niemann-Pick condition (NPC) which is likely to claim his life before he reaches his 10th birthday.

Mr Burdon said: "We have had to accept that unless there is a miracle, Calum is going to die young.

"Children don't usually survive past the age of eight or nine."

Calum was born with an enlarged spleen, one of the symptoms of the condition, but he was almost two when he was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick type C.

'In denial'

The couple were concerned he was not running or jumping about like normal toddlers and doctors did genetic tests on him which confirmed he had the disease in May 2006.

Mr Burdon said it was very difficult to accept. He said: "The hardest thing is the feeling that you can't do anything about it, that gets to you. There's no cure and no treatment and you feel useless."

The family have concentrated their efforts "on squeezing a lifetime of love in whatever time we have with him" and fundraising for children with the disease.

Both singers, the couple have done countless charity gigs for good causes in the past. "It really hits home, though, when you are doing events for your own child."

They stage an annual charity golf day and evening meal at Garstang Golf Club which is being held on 15 July this year and they are aiming to raise £10,000.

The trauma of living with a death sentence hanging over Calum's head has brought the couple closer.

"It's very tough to deal with but we're very committed to Calum and to each other."

Image caption Calum Burdon is going to Disneyworld in May through Hopes and Dreams charity

His two children from a previous marriage Ricky and Derry, who do not have the condition, are equally supportive.

"They dote on Calum and make a real fuss of him. He always perks up when they're around."

According to the Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation, there are just 500 cases diagnosed worldwide - yet there is another child with the disorder from the Fylde coast.

Nine-year-old Leah Garfitt, the subject of Tuesday night's ITV documentary Leah's Dream, lives less than 20 miles from Calum in Fleetwood.

The two families have formed a bond and Calum and Leah meet up when they go to Brian's House at Trinity Hospice.

As well as support from Brian's House, the family say they also get much needed support from the Niemann-Pick Disease UK.

The charity's executive director, Toni Mathieson, has personal experience of the condition. Three of her children had it.

Now one of the UK's leading authority on the disorder, she said: "Sadly it is always fatal at the moment and it is a very difficult and challenging time for the families of children with the disease. It is never easy."

Mr Burdon glows with pride at his son. "We are so proud of Calum and his achievements but it isn't the usual things you would be proud of your children for - it can be him getting off the couch or finishing a sentence."

A snooker fan, Calum has met his heroes, including a home visit from three-times World Champion John Higgins through his cue doctor Kevin Muncaster who is from Freckleton.

"The look on his face when he realised it was John Higgins was fantastic."

Sports presenter Andy Goldstein has organised it for the couple to take Calum to Disneyworld in May through the Hopes and Dreams charity.

It will be a poignant, though. "We're creating memories for him but we're aware it will probably be his last trip."

Despite the inevitability of his condition, Calum is not short of giving or receiving affection. "I don't know any child who has had as much love and kisses as Calum has."

"He knows he is special, but he just doesn't know why," added Mr Burdon.

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