Singer Abbie Tabberer of Chaddesden, Derby, wants to use her talent to help others with rare condition
A wheelchair user from Chaddesden could be destined for stardom. Paul Whyatt reports.
A THIRST for money and glamour tend to drive a person's hunger for fame. But Chaddesden singer Abbie Tabberer wants her name to be recognised for different reasons.
The 21-year-old hopes to win fame so she can use it to raise awareness of a debilitating condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or Pots.
The rare disorder, which affects the nervous system, is putting Abbie's life in danger as her heart rate can reach 3.5 beats per second – enough to send her into cardiac arrest.
Fatigue, dehydration, fluctuating blood pressure, bladder problems and infections prevent her living a normal life – and worse could be yet to come, with diabetes and leukaemia linked to Pots.
Abbie, of Poyser Avenue, aims to raise money that can be used to highlight the condition, which is so rare that most doctors have not even heard of it.
To do that, she wants to record her own single and use the proceeds to fund an awareness programme.
Such is her determination, Abbie took to a Manchester stage in a wheelchair to audition for Sky talent show Britain Does Variety.
A panel of four expert judges were blown away by her "unique" voice and put her through to the regional finals, one step away from the national final.
Abbie, the sister of Derby paralympic footballer Leon Taylor, said: "I'm taking part in the competition for two reasons. One, to inspire others. And two, to find someone to record my single.
"In my audition, I sang Emeli Sande's Read All About It. The lyrics really explain what it is like for me.
"I'm hoping to meet somebody who will help me to record my own single so I can raise money to make more people aware of Pots
"It would be great to win. The winner gets £7,500 and a slot at the 02 Arena during the interval of a big show. I'd be performing in front of thousands and thousands of people.
"The competition is a great platform. Three of the singers from last year's competition were scouted out and chosen to be on The Voice.
"Another is playing Oliver in the West End and two are working on the biggest cruise liner in Europe."
Abbie said she was thrilled when judges told her she was through to the regional final.
She said: "The good thing about the audition was you found out on the day whether you had got through to the next stage of the competition. I only had to wait 20 minutes – but it was the longest 20 minutes of my life.
"They started the auditions at 8am and I was among the last of the day. I was worried because they only put 20 to 30 through, and I thought there might not be any more places by the time they got to me.
"But they said my audition was really good, that I had a unique sound, and so they put me through."
Abbie had to quit the Midlands Academy for Dance and Drama, in Nottingham, after being diagnosed with Pots.
She said it was devastating but vowed not to let the condition get in the way of her singing.
Abbie said: "Leaving the academy was the hardest decision I've ever had to make. I was gutted. I worked my absolute socks off to achieve a place there.
"To have to leave just six months before graduating was devastating. Had I been able to graduate I would have got the chance to perform in the West End in front of some directors. Pots took that away from me but it won't stop me from singing."
Abbie said some days were better than others but she was determined to stay positive.
She said: "It is funny. Some days I'm fine and then on other days I need my wheelchair because I'm fatigued. People will see me walking along and then see me in a wheelchair. I can tell they're thinking – 'why is she now in a wheelchair?'
"The fact is my body gets too tired to constantly walk. I'll go into a shop and leave the wheelchair outside. When I go back in it, people are puzzled.
"On the day of an audition, my adrenaline is going to be pumping. A normal person's body can control that, but mine goes crazy. Without the wheelchair, I would just collapse."
Abbie's mother, Polly, a retired teacher, said her daughter was amazing.
She said: "Abbie never gives in. The professor she saw in London says lots of his patients who have Pots give in and don't bother to do anything with their lives – but Abbie won't give up. She picks herself up. You don't get this 'it's not fair' from her.
"People don't realise there's anything wrong with her because she looks well and acts well. She's a credit to people her age. She's just so plucky. She doesn't sit in her wheelchair permanently. She does as much as she can without it. She's an inspiration to other young people.
"She has shown that it doesn't matter what illness you've got, if you want to do something with your life, you can.
"Pots can lead to other diseases. It could lead to leukaemia. But she doesn't look at the negatives, she looks at the positives.
"Her heartbeat is phenomenal at times. It could lead to a heart attack. But she doesn't complain. She is frightened but at the same time she doesn't allow it to ruin her life.
"She can't go into town, go out drinking or go to parties. But she focuses on what she can do, not what she can't do."
Polly, 59, added: "Young people should not have to suffer like this. If we can raise more awareness, it will be really good.
"The problem with it is there is only one professor in the whole of the country who is a specialist on the condition and he's based down in London. He sees people from across the world. The waiting list for extensive testing is 18 months."