A well-known singer faces never being able to perform properly again due to a rare condition which has left him unable to eat without vomiting.
Vernon Lewis, who is from Sheffield but now lives in Rotherham, rarely goes a day without throwing up due to gastroparesis – a disease which the prevents the stomach from emptying itself of food in a normal fashion.
The 48-year-old, who has performed all over the world on cruise ships and at high-end resorts, has lost four stone in weight since being diagnosed in 2015 and his mental health has “nose dived” over the past 18 months, according to his ex-wife Rachel Grant, with whom he has two 11-year-old twins called Harvey and Taylor.
“It’s sad because he’s not the person he was,” Ms Grant said. “We share the children but sometimes he can’t look after them. They used to go to his house half the week but it’s hit and miss and it’s sad for the kids.
“They listen to him being sick and it’s not nice for them.”
Ms Grant, 43, who also has a daughter Ellie, 21, who Mr Lewis raised as his own, says performing is his livelihood.
The soul and Motown singer, who has performed as a Seal tribute act, has had to cancel upcoming gigs at the Hammersmith Apollo in London and various other high-profile venues due to the coronavirus pandemic and has effectively found himself unemployed.
The sudden loss of earnings and the crippling effects of gastroparesis have left Mr Lewis struggling to cope and although botox injections have given him temporary relief, he needs a stomach pacemaker which will effectively cure him and allow him to live his life and earn for his family.
However, it is not available for free on the NHS and costs £18,000.
Ms Grant said: “The latest procedure was botox and it kicked in after two weeks. That gave him two months where he was not being sick but still had the feeling of being sick.
“It didn’t take away the nauseating feeling but he could live with that as he wasn’t puking every day.
“But subsequent treatments have failed and the effects of that eventually wore off.
“Now, the only alternative is where he has a pacemaker fitted to act as a stomach pump but it’s not funded by the NHS and it costs £18,000.”
Although the pair have divorced, Ms Grant and her ex-husband remain close and after he phoned her in tears she knew she had to do something to “give Vern his life back, and my children their dad back”.
“He phoned me up in tears and I thought ‘I’ve got to do something to help him,’ she said.
“Performing and singing is his livelihood. He has worked all over the world and I think him not being able to work would finish him off.
“It’s his passion. It’s what he has done all his life. He is a performer and he doesn’t want to be someone with a feeding tube going through his nose. He wants to be able to sing and perform again so he needs this pacemaker.”
You can donate to Ms Grant’s fundraiser which is raising money for Mr Lewis’ life-changing surgery here.