Monkseaton family back The Journal Bubble Foundation campaign

A youngster who spent the first six months of his life in Newcastle's Bubble unit has backed a bid to safeguard the charity that supports it

Joe Fitzpatrick with mum Catherine
Joe Fitzpatrick with mum Catherine

He was only given a 40% chance of survival but 10 years on and Joe Fitzpatrick is standing tall.

The hardy youngster spent much of the first six months of his life in the Bubble unit at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary where mother, Catherine Rawes, says he received unrivalled care.

Now, the pair are throwing their support behind The Journal’s campaign to safeguard a charity that supports the life-saving hospital unit.

For more than 20 years, the Bubble Foundation has worked tirelessly to help children with immune deficiency problems at Newcastle’s Bubble unit. However, funds to the charity have sadly dwindled and the Foundation is now at serious risk of closure.

Scores of families have rallied to support our campaign to help raise awareness of the vital service the charity and the unit provides.

Ms Rawes of Monkseaton, North Tyneside, can’t imagine what it would have been like when Joe was born had the unit not been on her doorstep.

Joe was born four weeks early at Rake Lane Hospital and tests showed that the youngster had problems with his immune system so he was quickly transferred to the RVI in Newcastle and within a week he was admitted to the Bubble unit.

He was diagnosed with reticular dysgenesis, which is a rare genetic disorder of the bone marrow and the most severe form of severe combined immunodeficiency.

The 39-year-old nurse said: “He was in the unit for six months and within that time the staff there are pretty much the only people you see.

“You are there all the time because your child is so poorly. In the six months we were there with Joe the staff were incredible.”

As a continued show of appreciation for the Bubble Unit, Ms Rawes frequently takes part in fundraising activities in aid of the Foundation including a recent beach bootcamp.

“We did the bootcamp a few weeks ago and we got a lot of people involved in that. If there’s anything going on that involves the Bubble Foundation we do as much as possible,” said the mother-of-one.

She added: “One thing we are most thankful for is the fact that the unit is in Newcastle and really close. There were people from Ireland and all over the country when we were there so at least we had family who could come and see us.”

The Bubble Foundation raises money for medical equipment, toys, educational aids and funds pioneering research into immunity problems.

If the charity was to cease then it would mean research into immune system problems may stop and the region could potentially lose leading experts in this field.

Recently the Bubble unit at Newcastle’s Great North Children’s Hospital was named as one of the three best of its kind in Europe, caring for children from all over the country and much further afield, including young patients from Kuwait, Finland and Dubai.

Since the unit opened in 1992, a total of 370 children with immune deficiency problems have had a bone marrow transplant and each year up to 50 life-saving transplants are performed in the region.

In the early years, survival rates of youngsters who had undergone a bone marrow transplant was 50% but that has now risen to 90%, and those treated successfully go on to lead a normal life.

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