A PORT mum who cares for her severely disabled daughter and seriously ill husband has told how a local charity has saved her life.

Former care assistant Kellie McLean says that Home-Start Inverclyde offered her a lifeline when they stepped in to help her family.

They matched the mum with volunteer Deirdre Boyd, who spends vital time with the family every week.

She offers help with six-year-old Rhowyn who has autism and needs a wheelchair to go outside.

Kellie's life changed forever three years ago when her husband was struck down by ME only weeks before their wedding day.

He has never recovered and also needs round the clock care.

Kellie, who also has an eight-month-old boy, James Alexander, said: "I was left feeling so overwhelmed and isolated.

"I felt like I was suffocating and the truth is I was struggling.

"I was heavily pregnant with James Alexander, and I had pain in my hips.

"I am Ronald's full time carer.

"Rhowyn is pre-verbal and obviously needs so much support.

"I was being pulled all ways."

Family support charity Home-Start Inverclyde stepped in just before baby James Alexander was born to help Kellie and her family.

Kellie, 28, added: "It wasn't for Home-Start I would have no support whatsoever."

Craigmarloch pupil Rhowyn was diagnosed only six months after her dad fell ill with ME.

Mum-of-two Kellie, of Slaemuir Avenue, said: "She can't go out without a wheelchair.

"Rhowyn has no awareness of her own safety.

"She runs off and would sit in the middle of the road.

"For us it is all about Rhowyn, we have to adapt to her world, not the other way about.

"Being a mother is the best job in the world but if you don't have a child with autism it is hard to understand what it is like."

Kellie says the support of Home-Start and volunteer Deirdre has made a huge difference.

She added: "I think it was Craigmarloch who put me in touch with Home-Start.

"Deirdre is amazing - she is now 'aunty Deirdre'.

"She's brilliant with Rhowyn but she is there for me and all the family.

"I don't know what I would do without her.

"She puts so much care into what she does.

"Before even started coming to our house, she sent a video so that Rhowyn knew who she was.

"Deirdre has also helped us get home aids and adaptations that have made all the difference."

Kellie's husband Ronald, who is now 27, fell ill three years a go with long-term neurological condition ME.

It causes debilitating pain, fatigue and a range of other symptoms as the body and brain loses the ability to recover from even small bursts of energy.

Kellie said: "It was three weeks before we were getting married.

"It started off with chicken pox but he never got any better.

"He couldn't move and just about made our wedding.

"I would never have believed this could happen.

"We don't know when or if Ronald will get better.

"He has worked every day of his life and so had I.

"But suddenly we were hit by this.

"Ronnie is the most fantastic dad and does everything that he possibly can to help when he can.

"But he is so ill.

"It affects everything."

Volunteer Deirdre, 53, from Braeside, works as a learning assistant at Whinhill Primary School and has used all her experience to support Kellie and the whole family

She said: "It is lovely to be able to use my experiences to help Kellie.

"If I know something or someone who can help I put them in touch.

"Becoming a volunteer with Home-Start Inverclyde is the best thing I have ever done.

"I just love Kellie and all the family and it is great to be there for her."

Home-Start co-ordinator Kerry Dickson said: "Our aim is to help families with early intervention before it reaches a crisis. That is what we are there for."

* For more information on Home-Start Inverclyde contact the charity on 01475 603441.