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Grandmother campaigns from the heart for Charli

Karen HuntManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Margaret Morton takes a breather at the Blackwood River loop trail. She is about to embark on a 1000km ride along the Munda Biddi to raise funds for the Lung Foundation.
Camera IconMargaret Morton takes a breather at the Blackwood River loop trail. She is about to embark on a 1000km ride along the Munda Biddi to raise funds for the Lung Foundation. Credit: Karen Hunt / Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

Breathing easily is something too many of us take for granted, Margaret Morton believes.

“Last week when I was riding up a hill I was really puffing,” the 68-year-old said.

“Then I tried to get a drink and it was really difficult to swallow.

“I thought, now I know what Charli goes through every time she tries to eat.”

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Margaret’s granddaughter is in many ways like any other three-year-old but has a condition which means she fights for each breath.

Charli has been diagnosed with Children's Interstitial Lung Disease.
Camera IconCharli has been diagnosed with Children's Interstitial Lung Disease. Credit: Anthea Auld

Charli needs oxygen around the clock – making everyday activities including eating and playing difficult and having friends risky.

“If she gets a cold she ends up in the ED,” Margaret said.

Admitted to hospital at four months with what was thought to be asthma or bronchitis, Charli was eventually diagnosed with children’s interstitial lung disease.

While she is under the care of a dedicated team at Princess Margaret Hospital, Charli’s left lung is not growing and she is the size of a one-year-old.

Still, Charli is cheerful and keen to start school in 2018 if an operation to install a feeding tube goes well.

“She’s got a funny little sense of humour,” Margaret said.

“My hope for her is that one day she will be able to live a normal life.”

Margaret is now campaigning for two causes that are close to her heart.

Since her move to Bridgetown in 2014 she has joined a group which explores nearby trails by bike, and plans a more ambitious ride from Perth to Albany along the Munda Biddi.

The ride will raise funds for the Lung Foundation, a registered charity which conducts research for sufferers such as her granddaughter and offers families support.

Margaret believes too many people automatically link lung disease with smoking and have little sympathy for sufferers.

Many conditions that affect the lungs are not smoking related, she says – from cystic fibrosis to asbestosis.

She also hopes to raise the profile of the Munda Biddi trail itself.

“It’s a magnificent trail and it’s supposed to be a world class trail,” she said.

“We need more volunteers in the South West to keep it clear so people can ride it without doing what I had to do last Friday.”

Four big trees brought down by storms blocked one short stretch of the track on her recent ride, she said.

She plans to set out for Albany from Mundaring on September 16 and hopes to collect $10,000 for the Lung Foundation through her Everyday Hero webpage.

With her on part of the ride will be two doctors from Charli’s team at PMH.

“We’re over $8000 now – we got a $1000 cheque the other day,” she said.

“I think we’ll go over the $10,000 – maybe get to $15,000.”

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