A TODDLER diagnosed with a flesh-eating bug is battling back to health with a little help from his friends.
Frankie Mould underwent an unprecedented nine-hour operation to save his life after the infection rapidly spread across his body in just a few hours.
After painful skin grafts on his back, leg and chest, the 20-month-old was finally discharged from hospital and allowed to return to his Hylton Castle home.
Now Wearsiders, touched by his story, are helping to raise money towards the Frankie Mould Appeal, which aims to highlight the dangers of the Necrotising Fascitis (NF) infection.
Sunderland student Grace Stobbs, 18, decided she wanted to help and agreed to have her head shaved to raise cash.
Grace, a fashion and textiles student, said: “I was really moved by Frankie’s story when I read the Echo.
“I thought getting my hair cut off was a good way of highlighting the appeal and now I’m just trying to get used to my new look.”
Watched by Frankie and his mum, Lucy Dove, 25, staff at Toni and Guy in High Street West, Sunderland, shaved off Grace’s hair.
Lucy, also mum to Kayne, three, said: “I’m just overwhelmed at how kind Grace has been. That was a very brave thing to do.
“It’s vitally important we raise awareness of NF in children and educate people about protecting them from this.”
A team of surgeons at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary was forced to remove all the affected skin on Frankie’s body.
Healthy skin was then taken from his right leg and grafted back on to the rest of his damaged body.
Dr Liam Johnstone, who treated Frankie at the RVI, said: “I’ve seen two cases of Necrotising Fasciitis in children before.
“They were older and, sadly, they both died. So Frankie was very much at risk and we had to let his parents know there was a danger we could lose him.”
The family now face weekly trips to the hospital to keep a check on Frankie’s progress.
They are also raising money to take the youngster to Disneyland.