Whitley Bay family gets behind The Journal's Bubble Foundation campaign

Little Sam Gonsalez from Whitley Bay was saved by a world-renowned team in the North East at the Bubble Unit

Sam Gonsalez had a life saving operation at the Bubble Unit at the RVI
Sam Gonsalez had a life saving operation at the Bubble Unit at the RVI

His tiny life was left in their hands - but thanks to world renowned staff in the North East, Sam Gonsalez is fighting fit.

Sam was just 10-months-old when he underwent a bone marrow transplant at the Bubble unit in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, spending four months in isolation on the ward.

Now his parents are backing The Journal’s campaign to safeguard the Bubble Foundation charity that supports the life-saving hospital unit.

“Without the Bubble Foundation I can not imagine what it would be like. If they were not involved with the ward it would be a different story,” said Sam’s mother Alexandra Rowe, of Whitley Bay in North Tyneside.

The Bubble Foundation has worked tirelessly to help children with immune deficiency problems at Newcastle’s Bubble Unit for more than 20 years. But the charity is struggling with funds and the Foundation is now at risk of closure.

Families like Sam’s are throwing their support behind our campaign to help raise awareness for the vital service the charity and the unit provides.

Sam, who is now seven, was diagnosed at six weeks with the rare condition Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome, which meant only part of his immune system was working.

But thanks to staff on the unit Sam, who spent four months on the ward and was released on his first birthday, is now thriving and living life to the full alongside his classmates.

“You do not know how to say thank you to those people because thank you is not enough,” said 35-year-old Alexandra, who lives with Sam’s dad Neil Gonsalez.

The Great North Children's Hospital at the RVI in Newcastle
The Great North Children's Hospital at the RVI in Newcastle

“When Sam got ill I did not realise what we had up here and I do not think a lot of people do.

“They are the best and their success rates are fantastic and the care we received was just phenomenal,” she said.

Mother-of-three Alexandra added: “Sam is a great little boy and is a credit to that ward.

“When I think about how poorly he was a a baby and how great he is doing now, it is unbelievable.”

The Bubble Foundation provides funds for medical equipment, toys and educational aids on the unit, as well as looking out for the welfare of the babies, children and their families. More importantly, the foundation helps to fund research.

Emphasising how important the Bubble Foundation was to the unit, Alexandra said: “It sounds so little saying they provide TVs and such like for the kids but they are all provided by the foundation.

“Sam got a Christmas present as he was in over that time and it really meant a lot.

“Sam was just a baby on the ward but I have thought about the impact their work would have on the older children who are in isolation. They are there 24 hours a day and as parents we are there as much as possible and it makes such a difference on your time there because it is like you are in a little bubble.

“It just makes it all a little more cheery, that’s what it is there for, to make it better for the kids,” she said.

Alexandra, a researcher, also praised the staff on the unit and the volunteers at the Bubble Foundation. She added: “We just want to do whatever we can to help them because of what they did for our family.”

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.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer