A brave Derry schoolgirl is hoping that a charity CD she has recorded will help people understand her skin disorder and stop them staring at her.
Melissa Harkin, an incredibly talented 11-year-old pupil at the Model Primary School, has suffered from eczema all her life.
However, in the last two years following the death of her beloved grandmother, Melissa’s condition has got progressively worse.
It is now so severe that it covers her whole body and Melissa is in almost constant pain.
Mum Annette revealed that when she is at her worst, her daughter can’t even open her eyes, speak or eat as a result of her eczema. At times the condition has also left Melissa unable to walk.
On top of this the 11-year-old has to deal with people staring at her because the eczema is so noticeable.
Annette says that she has had to act as a shield on many occasions to stop her daughter being affected by other people’s reactions. The brave and pleasant young girl admits that often people staring makes her “so sad because I don’t want people looking at me”.
Her life has to be curtailed in many ways - she has to wear cotton clothes at all times and apply cream at least five times a day to the affected areas. She cannot wear make-up and is sensitive to everyday things like someone spraying deodorant or even a car air freshener.
Melissa and her family have to be so aware of everything around them that could cause the skin condition to flare up.
Carrying a supply of cream no matter where they go is also a must, as Melissa’s condition is very unpredictable and can change from hour to hour.
Her skin condition has led her to miss a lot of time at school - a place that she loves - because she only gets around five hours sleep a night. Even then she could be up three or four times in the night because it takes such a long time for her severe skin irritation to settle down.
Although her condition was initially much easier to control, since it has become severe Melissa has been receiving treatment from the dedicated team at Anderson House.
At the beginning Melissa was treated with cream and bandages, but she now receives specialist light therapy three times a week which she feels has helped.
When the 11-year-old, who has always been told sang before she talked, was bought a session in a recording studio for Christmas she immediately thought of using it to help others.
She recorded Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ and ‘Wings’ by Little Mix during the recording session and at the end of the month the CD will be on sale at a local music shop to raise money for the Dermatology Nurses Association at Anderson House in the Altnagelvin Hospital site.
Melissa has dreams of becoming a singer when she is older and despite her difficulties has just had a role in a local pantomime.
She also performed the songs at a school assembly and gave a presentation to class mates about eczema, followed by a question and answer session to help raise awareness.
Mum Annette is clearly proud of her daughter’s “guts” and says performing is good for Melissa as when she sings she “goes into her own wee world, nothing else matters”.
The 11-year-old came up with the idea of creating the charity CD herself to allow “other people to benefit from it”.
She hopes it will raise enough money for Anderson House to “buy more stuff that could help other people with a skin disorder”.
Melissa also hopes it will “help others understand what is wrong with me and stop staring at me”.
The CD will be on sale at Cool Discs for £3 at the end of the month. A charity football match will also take place at Leafair Pitches on February 3.
All proceeds will go to Dermatology Nurses Association, Anderson House.