A TWENTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD Bilsthorpe man has died from a suspected case of the incurable Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) — better known as 'mad cow' disease.
Andrew 'Rew' Hawker died at King's Mill Hospital on 7th May after being struck down by pneumonia while he fought the degenerative neurological disorder.
He was given just months to live when he was diagnosed with the brain disease in October last year and his brave fight against it touched the hearts of his devastated friends and family.
Health experts have told his family Andrew suffered from the more common sporadic form of CJD which usually affects 45-75 year olds, but the family think tests will eventually reveal he died from variant CJD — linked to eating BSE infected meat.
And his heartbroken mother Catherine, of Valley Road, says she believes meat he ate when he was a youngster may have triggered the killer condition.
"When (the experts] decided it was CJD, they wanted to know about where every single bit of meat he'd eaten had come from," she said. "We think it was the poor quality meat used by baby food manufacturers."
Fighting back the tears as she described Andrew's battle against the disease, she revealed how it quickly took hold of her 'gentle giant'.
"It's an absolutely wicked disease, it took Andrew — it took his personality, "she said. "Andrew was 6ft 9ins tall and by the time he died, he weighed about seven stone — it wasted him away.
"His friends are all very angry. Why should it happen to Andrew when there are people who have caused nothing but misery with their lives? They called him a gentle giant, he was so calm. His personality completely changed when he got ill."
Catherine revealed Andrew first began to feel ill last summer when they were carrying out home improvements to their Bilsthorpe home following their move from Dorchester in Dorset.
She said: "He started to get a burning sensation in his legs, but he put it down to the hard work he had been doing in the garden. Then in August he started to struggle so I took him to the GP. He took some blood, but there's no blood test for CJD yet.
"It was when I checked him one morning and he had been doubly incontinent that I realised something was very wrong. I didn't realise this at the time, but he had been falling over a lot."
He was diagnosed with CJD in the autumn after experts ruled out other conditions that could have caused Andrew's rapidly worsening conditions — which included mood swings, mobility problems and memory loss
Said Catherine, a mental health worker whose dad and brother had been farmers: "When they told me what it was, I was shocked — I'm still shocked.
"When people stopped talking about (CJD] you just think it's gone and away and you stop worrying about it."
Sporadic CJD: The most common form of CJD, causing fifty to sixty deaths per year in the United Kingdom. It usually affects people middle-aged and older (45-75) but has affected people in their teens and early 20. Although it the cause is unclear, this form is not thought to be linked to infected food.
Variant CJD: The form of the disease thought to be linked to BSE (mad cow disease) in cattle, and introduced to humans through infected meat.
Few cases have been reported outside the UK. It affects younger people than the sporadic form, with the average onset age being 27.
Genentic CJD: A very rare illness caused by an inherited abnormal gene.
Latrogenic CJD: Also very rare, This is where CJD accidentally transmitted during the course of medical or surgical procedures.