Teen friends take on swim challenge

tis  Pictured from left are Katie Oates, Anna Ashfield, India Ashfield and Emma Oates.  (130423M2)
tis Pictured from left are Katie Oates, Anna Ashfield, India Ashfield and Emma Oates. (130423M2)

Two teenage girls who have battled debilitating illnesses are set to take on the challenge of the Great North Swim together.

India Ashfield, 16, from Pateley Bridge and Katie Oates, 14, from Boroughbridge have been firm friends for years, supporting each other through their respective illnesses.

Katie, and her older brother Tom, were born with a rare genetic disorder called Bardet-Biedl Syndrome which affects just 150 people in the UK.

Symptoms vary from patient to patient with Katie suffering from renal problems which will eventually mean the teenager will need a kidney transplant and a retina disease which affects her vision.

Both the girls’ mothers are keen swimmers and have swam the Great North Swim.

Emma Oates said: “Two years ago Katie said, I want to have a go, and last year she was on the case again to do it.”

“India wanted to support Katie and said she would swim slowly with her so they could do it together.

“However two weeks before the swim last year, India’s Mum rang me to tell me the devastating news that India had been diagnosed with Lymphoma and they would not be able to take part.

“Katie was very upset to hear her friend was so poorly and I suggested that we shelve the swim and focus on looking after India and her family but she was adamant that she would swim it for India.

“In less than two weeks Katie raised over £1200 for The Teenage Cancer Trust.”

India underwent a six month chemotherapy programme which ended at Christmas and is on the road to recovery, having been told the cancer has gone into remission.

Mrs Oates said: “This year India is in remission and has decided she wants to repay the favour to Katie.”

The two teenagers and their mothers will swim the 1/2 mile race at Windermere in the Lake District in June.

Mrs Oates added: “The illness affects Katie’s vision but we will be there supporting her along the swim.”

Not satisfied with just the one challenge adventurous Katie is also planning to cycle the Coast to Coast with the rest of her St Aidens classmates when they take on the challenge this month.

Katie and her mother will tackle the 225 miles on a tandem bicycle.

To donate to Katie and India’s fund for the LMBBS charity visit http://www.justgiving.com/KatieandIndia.