A CEREBRAL palsy sufferer has had his only means of communication saved in time for Christmas thanks to elderly rights campaigner Ken Mack and the Wrexham Mail.
Mark Williams has been severely disabled since the age of four by the illness, which means he is wheelchair-bound and unable to speak.
He communicates using a plastic sheet, known as a bliss board, with a grid printed on it.
Inside the grid are words and pictures, from which he forms sentences by pointing at them. There are also empty boxes in case he is running an errand not featured so he can write specialist words.
Mark, who lives in Hightown, is well-known in Wrexham town centre as he does the shopping for himself and his wife Rose, who cannot walk far due to severe asthma and heart problems.
He goes to the shops in his electric wheelchair and but has to return home within an hour. He can't stay out longer because he needs assistance using the toilet.
But he has now received the best Christmas present ever as Social Services and the local health authority agreed to jointly fund his bliss boards.
Mark faced a future of silence and struggle after he was told Wrexham Maelor Hospital's Speech and Language Therapy Department would have to stop supplying the £5 boards. It said Mark was not a registered patient and it could no longer get funding for them.
Without a replacement every few months, Mark would lose his independence. 'They get tatty because they can't be laminated or they don't fold up to be carried easily,' said Rose. 'As a result, the charts are unreadable after a few months and have to be replaced.'
As they tried to get the hospital to change its mind they spoke to elderly rights campaigner Ken Mack, who began enquiries into buying boards, costs and why the hospital would not provide them.
Their plight was also highlighted in the Wrexham Mail.
Mr Mack said: 'Without his boards this intelligent, independent man would be trapped in a silent prison, unable to communicate or live the life he wants to live. Now he's looking forward to a brighter New Year.'
'We only found out this week,' said Rose. 'It is great news, Mark is over the moon. He has been out doing the Christmas shopping and enjoying his freedom.
'We don't know how long the funding will remain but for now it is great.
We'd like to thank Ken Mack for his tireless campaigning, the Wrexham Mail for their support and everyone who has offered or tried to help us. You have made our Christmas.'