Bubble baby Reece Ainsley’s life was tragically cut short last year but it was thanks to the expertise of medical professionals at a North East hospital that he made it through his first few months of life.
Reece was born with a congenital heart defect and diagnosed with an immune system deficiency. The condition, severe combined immunodeficiency, destroyed his immune system and left him vulnerable to illness.
At six-months-old he needed a bone marrow transplant and spent three months at the bubble unit.
Reece battled through this but last year he was sadly diagnosed with a lung disease, which eventually claimed his life just days before his third birthday.
Mother Lauren Ainsley, 24, from Gateshead, has been forever grateful for the care Reece received during his time in the bubble unit - which is now based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle - and she has now backed 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.
Lauren said: “Reece first went into the unit when he was six-months-old. He had chemotherapy and it was really hard seeing him go through that but the nurses and staff were great and so were the doctors.
“It did become a second home and everyone there was brilliant and were there when you needed them. They would talk us through everything and they really took care of him.”
Reece was born on October 25, 2009, but was rushed back to hospital just seven days later when X-rays showed he had been born with a valve defect that stopped oxygen reaching his heart.
He spent three weeks in intensive care before doctors allowed him to leave hospital and return home.
At six months old, specialists discovered he was suffering from severe combined immunodeficiency which led to him being admitted to the bubble unit.
Lauren and Reece’s father Lee Hetherington stayed by his side throughout with the support of staff at the unit and family.
“It would have been really hard if the unit wasn’t so close because we were able to have our family around,” said Lauren.
Both parents and friends have taken part in a number of fundraising events to help the Bubble Foundation.
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.
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.