A FORMER nurse is launching a crusade to raise awareness of a rare muscular disease after an ex-colleague who was also a sufferer died earlier this month.

Patricia Carter retired from Chorley Hospital in 1990 because of Myasthenia Gravis -- a rare and incurable disease which affects certain skeletal muscles.

Her colleague Alex Yates, of Astley Village, who worked as a theatre porter at the hospital, was diagnosed as having the same disease at almost the same time.

Mr Yates died from a heart attack earlier this month at the age of 70, but Patricia said during her time as a nurse he was one of the kindest porters she had met.

She said: "He gave so much reassurance and support to frightened patients waiting for operations and always found the time to do extra special deeds which made the hospital a brighter place." Every Christmas for seven years Mr Yates dressed up as Santa and Patricia would don a Good Fairy outfit. Together they would hand out gifts to all the children in the hospital to brighten up the festive period.

After Mrs Yates' death, Matt McCormack, his friend of 30 years and fellow porter, said: "Patricia said she is now campaigning for more awareness of Myasthenia Gravis disease as a mark of respect for her friend."

The disease can manifest itself in various symptoms, including weight loss, chest infections, weakness in the arms and legs and problems with talking, chewing and swallowing food.

But Patricia said if it is caught early drugs can be used to control the symptoms, adding: "It's important to get early diagnosis. If anyone wants to learn more, contact the Myasthenia Gravis Association on 0800 919922."