Andaleeb Shahzad had been left with a host of medical conditions following her premature birth.

Teenager Andaleeb Shahzad

It has been a blessing finding Focus Birmingham after she finished at Victoria.

Teenager Andaleeb Shahzad has been left with a host of medical conditions following her premature birth at just 23 weeks.

But despite having a rare liver disease, and being profoundly deaf and severely partially sighted, her father Shahzad Ashraf says Andaleeb, now aged 19, is a happy youngster who has grown to be “quite a lady”.

And Mr Ashraf, who is a full-time carer to Andaleeb along with his wife Aisha, adds: “It is a consolation to hear her laugh.”

The couple, who live in Bordsley Green, Birmingham, have six younger children – all of them sons – and Mr Ashraf, 45, says: “We regard all of our children as a blessing. We are not pessimistic about Andaleeb despite her conditions. She’s a fighter. She’s shown a lot of fighting spirit and has developed into quite a lady.”

That development has been aided in the past year by Focus Birmingham, a charity specialising in the care of visually impaired and disabled people in the West Midlands.

Andaleeb attends Focus Birmingham’s day centre in Harborne five days a week after she ended her full-time education at Victoria special school in Northfield at the age of 18.

Mr Ashraf adds: “They were recommended to us but we still decided to carry out quite extensive research by visiting 24 other day centres that could help Andaleeb, and we ended up choosing Focus Birmingham.

“She definitely enjoys going there. She’s had massage, facials, music sessions and they also go out, such as to the theatre. Focus has a very homely feel to it and they try to keep her engaged.

“It has been a blessing finding Focus after she finished at Victoria, especially as the day centre is open all year round except Christmas.”

Andaleeb, who will be 20 in February, was born weighing just 1 lb 8 oz.

Mr Ashraf, who gave up running two dry cleaning shops when his daughter was born, says: “She was diagnosed with milestone developmental delay because of the prematurity, but she also has cerebral palsy and retinothapy which means her vision is restricted to lights so she can’t see shapes or forms.

“She also has congenital deafness which she inherited from her mum, who is profoundly deaf, and was then diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is in the family, at the age of three.”

Then, at the age of six, Andaleeb was found to be suffering from a rare, life-limiting liver condition known as Budd-Chiari, which causes a blockage in the vein and results in back pressure that affects her oesophagus, or gullet.

“It can cause her oesophagus to burst so that’s something we constantly have to be aware of,” adds Mr Ashraf.

We are currently giving her warfarin to keep her blood thin and allows it to flow freely, and she’s also on antacids for her IBS and an iron solution because she’s also anaemic.

They do say you are more susceptible to diseases when you are born prematurely, but Andaleeb manages well with the help of her mum who is her main carer and clothes and feeds her and helps to make sure she’s happy.

She’s continued to live at home all her life and is a happy child. We take care of her and do our best. Her care is the most important thing.”

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