Manchester

Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy: Ex-Wigan star Andy Johnson's battle to help son

Andy Johnson and his son Jack Image copyright JOININGJACK.COM
Image caption Andy Johnson and his son Jack

BBC Radio Manchester is taking a journey across Greater Manchester's 10 boroughs to meet some of the most inspiring people who live in the region.

Three years ago, rugby league legend Andy Johnson and his wife Alex received the news that all parents dread - their "cheeky, excitable and a big softy at heart" young son was diagnosed with an incurable condition which will probably claim his life before he turns 30.

They were told Jack has Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy - a terminal muscle-wasting disease.

Doctors predict their energetic little boy, who is now aged seven, will be in a wheelchair by the age of 12.

Former Wigan Warriors star Johnson, who lives in Wigan with Alex, Jack and his little brother, three-year-old Josh, knows it is a race against time to find a cure.

The couple decided they had to do something to try to push research for a cure.

Image copyright joiningjack.com
Image caption Jack Johnson has one of the most common types of MD, which affects about one in 3,500 boys in the UK

"A breakthrough is imminent," said Andy, 40, who retired from rugby league in 2005.

With Alex, 30, he set up a charity, Joining Jack, "to help move things forward for Jack and other children like him".

While focussing much of their energies on the charity, Andy admits it is impossible not to cry on a daily basis when thinking about what faces Jack.

"It's like little deaths," he said. "You lose the use of your arms, then your legs."

Nothing short of a cure can make it better, Andy said, but he says the support his family has had from people has been overwhelming.

The charity is now backed by some of the country's biggest sports stars, including Olympic champion and Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins and dual-code rugby player Sam Burgess.

As for Jack himself, does he know about his condition?

"Jack's aware that something is going on," said Andy. "But not quite what".

You can hear the Tales of the 10 on BBC Radio Manchester each weekday until Friday, 23 January.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Johnson spent five years with Wigan during an 11-year professional career