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Village rallies to help as several residents are hit by rare autoimmune condition

PUBLISHED: 13:08 11 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:19 11 November 2019

Nigel Congdon from the village of Hilgay was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome in June 2018. Picture: Nigel Congdon

Nigel Congdon from the village of Hilgay was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome in June 2018. Picture: Nigel Congdon

Archant

A rare auto-immune disorder that usually affects around one person in every 40,000 each year has affected several people in a small Norfolk village.

Ali Dent, a butcher from Hilgay, has been running the book sale for 35 years. Picture: Archant.Ali Dent, a butcher from Hilgay, has been running the book sale for 35 years. Picture: Archant.

The village of Hilgay, near Downham Market, with a population of fewer than 2,000 has seen multiple people suffering with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), prompting support from a popular charity book sale.

Nigel Congdon, from Hilgay, was diagnosed with the condition, which cases muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis, in June 2018.

Mr Congdon, who used to be a delivery driver at Reeds in Downham Market, said: "I used to cry because I thought I could never get better again.

"I used to run five miles every day and was quite fit and all of a sudden I got to work one day and kept falling over."

The book sale, held at the Hilgay Village Hall, raised thousands of pounds. Picture: Nigel CongdenThe book sale, held at the Hilgay Village Hall, raised thousands of pounds. Picture: Nigel Congden

The 54-year-old was diagnosed with the critical stage and was paralysed.

He said: "It got to a stage where I couldn't lift myself off the ground.

"It's frightening, it's like having motor neurone or being a stroke patient."

Three other villagers have also been diagnosed with the condition, which is why local butcher Ali Dent organised a book sale to raise money for a charity which helps people with GBS.

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The event, held at Hilgay Village Hall on Sunday, October 27, raised more than £3,400 for Guillain-Barre and Associated Inflammatory Neuropathies (Gain).

Mr Congdon said: "I'm just so thankful to Ali. I was so pleased he helped us out because it's not funded like the other big charities.

"It's so rare people don't know what it is."

GBS affects around 1,500 people each year in the UK.

Mr Dent and his brother Des Dent have been running the Hilgay book sale for 35 years, raising around £120,000 for good causes during that time.

More than 20,000 books were donated by villagers to help raise funds.

The Hilgay butcher said: "The sale was really good.

"I was worried at first as nobody was outside at 9am but by 10am like the seventh cavalry the book lovers streamed in and kept coming most of the day. It was chock-a-block in there.

"Thousands of books were sold and over £3,400 was raised."

Last year's sale raised £4,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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