Cheeky Finlay Kennedy looks like he does not have a care in the world.
Yet the three-year-old has a rare immune system problem that is so unique it is not fully understood by health specialists.
Finlay, of Houghton-le-Spring, is often unable to fight off infections and needs a blood infusion each week to help boost his immune levels.
Father-of-one Fraser, 41, said: “All the medical tests that have been done on Finlay have come back negative and he has not had a diagnosis.
“We have always been told that Finlay might grow out of his condition as he gets bigger and stronger, but it has not happened yet, and it might not.
“One of my biggest fears is being told that my son has a horrible disease. You worry that there is something underlying.
“He has been through the mill and he’ll feel yucky all the time, but because he doesn’t know any different he just gets on with it.”
Parents Fraser and Leanne Burn, 27, first realised something was wrong when Finlay was just three months old as the youngster kept getting repeated infections.
The Busy Bees nursery pupil would be admitted to hospital many times for treatment and was referred to the North East’s Regional Immunology and Allergy Unit.
Over the years, experts at the world-leading Bubble Unit at the Great North Children’s Hospital have done a number of tests in a bid to identify what is wrong with him.
But Finlay continues to be struck down with colds, viruses and infections and his health is regularly assessed. Last week, he was admitted to Sunderland Royal Hospital after he became ill with an infection.
Fraser, who is head of Sports Elite at Newcastle University, said: “Finlay used to go into hospital every two to three weeks as we would not be able to control his temperature if he got an infection. Leanne is very good at recognising when he is not well and, until last week, he hadn’t been admitted to hospital for about a year-and-a-half.”
Mum Leanne, a tutor, was taught how to give Finlay his blood infusion at home each week and the youngster is also regularly on anti-biotics.
“Finlay is a tough little cookie,” said Fraser. “When you see him he looks really well and has so much energy. He is great with other children and just gets on with life.”
Last week, Fraser presented the Bubble Foundation, which supports the unit Finlay is treated at, with a cheque for £8,521. The money was raised by a series of fundraising events since November, including former and current Sunderland AFC Ladies players taking part in a charity match.
Fraser said: “The Bubble Foundation is vital for research into immune problems and that is absolutely key to developing treatments. I would like to thank everybody for their help and support in raising the funds.”