Leeds battling tots in heating ordeal

Tiny Poppy-Mae and Emily Atkinson give each other a sisterly hug.

But their brave smiles hide the fact that BOTH girls are battling a rare genetic condition that usually affects only one in 200,000.

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The tiny Leeds sisters, aged seven months and two years, suffer from Cystinosis, which has left their immune systems so weak that even if they catch a chill, they have to go to hospital.

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The poorly siblings cannot eat solids and are fed via milk machines pumping essential nutrients directly into their bodies through the night while they sleep.

And now they have been presented with a new problem which has given

them a less than ideal start to the new year.

The girls and their parents Jessica Kemp and Darren Atkinson were recently re-homed to Belle Isle by Leeds City Council after requesting to be moved from Beeston.

But the new house has no central heating – and no heating of any kind upstairs.

The house has no gas supply and the family have been told they have to await a survey by British Gas to assess them for a new connection.

That could take six weeks - and a new heating system could take weeks or even months.

Even if they do qualify, they may have to pay for the heating themselves if it costs more than 1,000.

Neither parents Jessica, 24, nor Darren, 32, work as they are full-time carers for their ill children.

"The girls' immune systems are not very strong and they can get colds

very quickly," Jessica said.

"Even if they catch a chill they have to go to hospital.

"We had an OK house but there was just not enough room because the girls need a lot of supplies, so we requested a new house.

"But now we have problems with the heating.

"There are three small storage heaters downstairs fixed to the wall but there is no heating upstairs at all.

"We have had to put halogen heaters upstairs but they are no good because Poppy-Mae has a nasal tube and Emily has a gastro tube in her belly because of problems with swallowing."

The family's house in Belle Isle is cluttered with medical equipment and supplies.

Jessica and Darren are on 24/7 standby with medicines, eye drops and


The girls get through up to a dozen nappies each every day because their weakened kidneys mean they are constantly drinking water.

A spokeswoman for the Belle Isle Tenant Management Organisation, said: "We certainly sympathise with this family's situation.

Unfortunately, this property does not have a connection to the mains gas supply.

"(Ms Kemp's] application is now in the hands of the utility company, who will assess the viability of connecting the property to the mains supply. Unfortunately we are not in control of the utility company's work schedule.

"Should it not be possible to connect the property to the mains gas supply we may consider other heating options, however it is important that these are affordable for the tenants to run."

Sara Powell-Davies, of British Gas, said: "I'm really sorry but it appears that we did not pass the quotation requested by Belle Isle Tenant Management Organisation to Northern Gas Networks to process.

"We have now done this but recognise that Northern Gas Networks will take time to complete the quotation and the eventual works if the quotation is approved by Belle Isle Tenant Management Organisation.

"We have provided additional heating to Mr Atkinson and Miss Kemp and have apologised to them."

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