Eight-year-old Heidi Falconer stared tearfully from her bedroom window watching other children building a snowman. Heidi, who suffers from a severe allergy to water, could not join them because her special protective raincoat has been stolen.
The disease means her skin blisters when she comes into contact with water - she could even become unconscious. Without the custom-made raincoat, which covers her from head to toe, she cannot leave her home in the West Midlands. Heidi says her pink-and-green suit had changed her life. "It meant I could go outside for the first time in the snow and rain and play with all my friends. I am really upset it has gone missing. I can't do anything now."
She is one of 30 people in the world who have aquagenic urticaria and she was the first person to be born with it. Her younger sister, Sadie, four, is unaffected, and no other members of her family have the allergy. But Heidi's affliction is so severe she is even allergic to her own sweat, and she risks collapsing on contact with water because it sends her body into anaphylactic shock. This means her body has such a strong allergic reaction she can lose consciousness.
When her family returned to their home in Tividale, near Birmingham after spending the weekend in Shropshire, they found the house ransacked. Carol, 35, and David, 38, a printer, noticed the thieves had even stolen their leather coats, but they were devastated when they realised Heidi's raincoat suit was also missing. "I just didn't know what to tell her. I knew snow was expected, so she wouldn't be able to go out, and if you could see what that meant to her," Mrs Falconer said.
The hooded raincoat was specially designed for Heidi two years ago after she appeared on television. The Falconers did not take the raincoat to Shropshire with them because Heidi had strained her ankle. They wanted to encourage her to rest and without the coat she was forced to stay indoors.
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