Simon Gregson has opened up about being impacted by his devastating Coronation Street scenes.
His character, Steve McDonald, has faced the toughest few months as son Oliver was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder – a life-threatening illness.
Steve and Leanne Tilsley (Jane Dawson) were given fresh heartache last month when doctors advised that the youngster would never be able to breathe unaided.
And Simon explained he has personally found it upsetting to take on the script – especially as a parent himself.
When asked how difficult it was to play the scenes, he said: ‘It depends how much you invest your own mind into it, luckily the scripts are so good you can read them and do the scenes like you really mean them.
‘There are some days when you’re giving it everything, you’re looking at this three year child doll in the bed, which is the most lifelike thing you’ve ever seen, reading Mr Men stories to it then you go home and you’re reading Mr Men stories to your four year old straight after.
‘That’s when it’s like wow, this is upsetting and you need to take a step back.’
The parents have had their world turned upside down throughout Oliver’s health struggles – something that has only worsened when they were told there is no more treatment available to their son.
But Simon explained that Steve wants to ‘still believe’ there is a way to save him.
‘He’s in two minds, he’s believing what the doctors are saying but then he’s hoping against hope that there is still a chance,’ he continued.
‘But Leanne won’t take it on board at all and Steve is allowing himself to be persuaded by Leanne really because he wants to believe there’s still hope.’
Despite all their issues in the past, he was adamant the pair are ‘united’ in how they will see this through.
‘[Steve] is definitely united with her, yes. At the end of the day although he’s seeing it from a much more logical point of view, and has resigned himself to the fact that these are the experts and they’re probably right, this is his son and he’d die for him so he’s letting himself go down the path that Leanne’s going down because any hope is better than no hope.
What is mitochondrial disease?
Mitochondrial diseases result from failures of the mitochondria, specialized compartments present in every cell of the body (except red blood cells).
Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. Cell injury and even cell death follow. If this process is repeated throughout the body, whole organ systems begin to fail.
The parts of the body, such as the heart, brain, muscles and lungs, requiring the greatest amounts of energy are the most affected.
Symptoms vary depending on the organ(s) affected but may include seizures, atypical cerebral palsy, autistic features, developmental problems, fainting and temperature instability.
According to The Lily Foundation, the prognosis depends upon the severity of the disease and other criteria. As more research funds are raised to find more effective treatments and ultimately a cure, some of the affected children and adults are living fairly normal lives with mitochondrial disease.
In other cases, children may not be able to see, hear, talk or walk. Affected children may not survive beyond their teenage years. Adult onset can result in drastic changes from an active lifestyle to a debilitating ilness is a short amount of time.
Treatment plans vary from patient to patient but involve therapies, diet changes and other means to try and slow the progress of the disease.
You can find out more information from the NHS here.
‘They want to do everything they can but they’re not prepared at all financially because it’s a ridiculous amount of money but they’re determined to do anything they can and go to any lengths to give Oliver a chance.
‘Steve offers to sell his businesses to raise money, Nick tries to sell his share of the factory, the whole family is pulling together, even Tracy agrees to sell the florists.’
Simon, Leanne, their co-stars and the researchers have worked closely with the Lily Foundation – a charity dedicated to fighting mitochondrial disease – to ensure they portray Oliver’s illness in the right way.
Speaking about how important the organisation’s input has been, the Weatherfield legend added: ‘I think it’s highly important, mitochondrial disease is something a lot of people aren’t really aware of, child life limiting illness often isn’t discussed as it’s so upsetting but there are families going through this and we need to highlight it so more research can be done with the support of organisations like The Lily Foundation.
‘While looking at the research we did with the Lily Foundation it’s also important to realise that there are some people living longer lives with the condition.
‘We’ve touched on the worst case scenario but there are children living longer, fuller lives so it’s important to raise awareness.’
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