You know you aren’t in the right place for a feel good documentary when after just one minute, the narrator has already used the phrases: ‘tragedy’, ‘genetic disorder’, ‘terminal disease’ and ‘will not survive’. Leah’s Dream opens on such a depressing note that you may consider reaching for the remote and flicking on E4’s 4,000th Friends repeat, but after pushing past the opening statistics (facts and figures that could send even the Glee kids into a well of depression) we find the enlightening and inspiring story of a nine year-old girl battling Niemann Pick Disease.
For the non-medics among us, NPD is a rare illness that inflicts senile dementia upon its child victims and the scenes in which Leah’s fellow classmates are learning and develop new skills while she recedes into a tragically premature old age are hear-breaking. Side-effects of this affliction mean the young girl will gradually lose her eyesight, memory and the use of her muscles – effects that develop throughout the documentary. Of course this is all very moving, but rather than focus solely on the disease itself, Leah’s Dream hones in on the human elements of the story and spotlights the mother/daughter bond that the disease is attempting to tear apart.
Leah’s mother Lindsey battles to make every day a pleasure, but you can see that this woman has been through a hard time. To say that Lindsey has had some bad karma in her life is an understatement. As the programme continues we find out that while caring for her senile daughter, Lindsey was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour at the age of 23 – oh and her grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Talk about bad luck. Despite being bombarded with bad news and endless hospital appointments, the Garfitt’s battle on and quite easily put any of our everyday worrisome troubles into perspective. Touching stuff.