Hundreds of staff at a car parts plant have given up their traditional Christmas gift from their employer to help pay for life-saving treatment for a colleague.

Father-of-two Liam Debbage, 31, was diagnosed with clear cell sarcoma, a cancer which affects only 200 people around the world every year, after he hurt himself playing squash.

He was told there was no treatment available on the NHS and he and his wife Michelle were warned to prepare for the worst.

 A fundraising page reached half the total needed for treatmentA fundraising page reached half the total needed for treatment, and the rest was made up by the company (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

After carrying out research, he found a drug called Pembrolizumab could be effective, but the couple from Murton, County Durham, were told they would have to fund the new treatment themselves as his condition was too rare for the NHS to pay for the trial.

The family set about raising £30,000 and were amazed when colleagues at ZF Peterlee, which makes cameras for cars and trucks, agreed that instead of staff Christmas presents, the firm should spend the money on boosting his fund.

Big thankyou to all the people who have donated so far! ❤

Posted by Liam Debbage on Saturday, November 11, 2017

The plant employs 904 permanent and temporary workers and staff would typically receive a present of a bottle of prosecco or champagne.

That money has boosted Mr Debbage’s fund by £16,000, plus another £1,500 from the firm, which means he has raised his target. The family had raised £15,000 themselves.

Mr Debbage said: “I cannot put into words what this means to me.
“When they rang me to tell me the news, I broke down.

“I can now undergo treatment which could potentially help me beat this cancer.

The ZF Peterlee plantThe ZF Peterlee plant where staff agreed to give up a Christmas present to help Liam Debbage (ZF Peterlee/PA)

“When I was diagnosed with clear cell sarcoma, I didn’t know what to do as it was such a shock.

“I thought, how can I be so ill when I feel absolutely fine? And then to be told that my cancer is so rare that there was no treatment available on the NHS was an even bigger blow.

“The whole journey has been awful.

“Now I have hope and have been told that in a matter of a couple of weeks the treatment could start.

“Thank you to everyone at ZF Peterlee for making this possible.”

The ZF Peterlee plant where Liam Debbage is a popular colleague (ZF Peterlee/PA)

His wife said: “Now, after months of fundraising to privately undergo the Pembrolizumab drug treatment, we have raised enough that in a couple of weeks it can start.

“That’s all down to the generosity of Liam’s colleagues at ZF and has completely restored my faith in people.”

Lisa Walton, the plant’s HR manager, said: “Liam is such a popular member of the ZF team and everyone wanted to do whatever they could to help, and sacrificing their Christmas gift from the company seemed like a small price to pay to ensure their colleague gets this potentially life-saving treatment.”

The fundraising page can be found here .