Today The Journal is launching a campaign to raise vital funds to ensure that pioneering research in tackling disorders of the immune system continues.
The Bubble Unit at the Great North Children’s Hospital, based at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, is one of only two nationally designated services that treats children with little or no immune system.
More than 20 years ago, a charity named the Bubble Foundation was set up in support of the service, but this is now sadly at serious risk of closure due to a sharp reduction in donations.
As the Bubble Unit is the only one of its kind outside of London’s Great Ormond Street, if this were to happen the impact would be significant. It would mean groundbreaking research into immune system problems would stop and the region could potentially lose leading experts in this field.
We are now calling on readers to organise fundraising events or make a donation to the Bubble Foundation to ensure the continuation of the important charity.
Whether it’s a sponsored football match or evening of entertainment, you could be joining North East celebrities such as popular TV agony aunt Denise Robertson in support of the charity.
Brian Aitken, editor of The Journal, said: “Remarkable people are doing remarkable things unheralded in the heart of Newcastle, making medical breakthroughs that are saving young people’s lives and we want to galvanise the North East to do something to help.
“It would be tragic if world-renowned research had to stop and the highly-skilled staff go and work elsewhere.”
Recently the Bubble Unit 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.
On a yearly basis it is estimated that medics at ward 3 - officially named the Children’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit - see more than 1,400 children in their clinics.
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.
The Bubble Foundation funds pioneering research into immune deficiency problems and is currently financing research programmes, in collaboration with Newcastle University, up to the value of £100,000 per year.
Over the last two decades the charity has given more than £1m to research schemes and has helped buy groundbreaking medical equipment, such as the Extracorporeal Photopheresis (ECP) machine.
The ECP is a treatment for patients suffering from serious complications of bone marrow transplantation and since it was installed at the Great North Children’s Hospital last year medics have been able to treat nine children.
Thanks to work done at the Bubble Unit, Prof Andrew Cant and his team have also improved the treatment of a number of childhood diseases such as lupus and juvenile arthritis.
Dr Mary Slatter, an associate specialist at the unit said: “We continually strive to improve treatment and outcomes for children by investing in the latest technology.
“We are very proud of the service that we provide here in the North East and we get a constant stream of overseas doctors coming to the unit to learn from our work.
“Continued donations is vital for the pioneering research that is done in the region.”
Children can be isolated in the Bubble Unit for many months and, in some cases, years at a time. Because of their need for a sterile environment new toys have to be purchased for each child.
The Bubble Foundation funds all new toys and has also paid for sky television and an iPad for the older children to use during their stay at the hospital.
The Foundation relies entirely on donations from kind-hearted people but sadly, due to the current economic climate, money given to the charity has dwindled and without continued support funds will run dry.
Gill Johnston, fundraising manager of the Bubble Foundation said: “Everyone involved with the Bubble Unit would like to thank The Journal and its readers for all their help.
“The Bubble Foundation is celebrating 21 years of supporting the Children’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the Great North Children’s Hospital during which time we have cared for over 300 children.
“In the early days six out of 10 babies died but today it is only one out of 10 and that has been possible due to the generosity of the people of the North East who have supported the Foundation and enabled us to fund research into better, less painful treatments for these precious children.
“We look forward to a time when every child that arrives on the unit goes home to lead a normal health life”.
Many ways to dig deep
We're urging as many people as possible to support the Bubble Foundation. Whether it be a sponsored bike ride or fundraising night, we’re calling on our readers to dig deep and help raise vital funds for the charity.
To donate, make a cheque payable to Bubble Foundation UK and send it to: Ward 3, Great North Children’s Hospital, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle, NE1 4LP.
For more information about the charity visit:
Website: www.bubblefoundation.org.uk and link in to their justgiving page
If your doing a fundraising event for the Bubble Foundation, or have used the unit email our Health Reporter at