Bubble Foundation

/ 15 March 2018

Imagine not being able to pick up your crying baby until you have scrubbed your hands clean for three minutes and put on a special gown. Imagine not being able to take your baby for a walk because they need to stay in a sterile bubble of clean air.

Some parents don’t have to imagine; for them, it is real. Their children suffer from a rare, inherited condition called Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or SCID. They are born without an immune system and cannot fight the simplest of infection. Even the common cold passed on by a mother’s kiss can be fatal.

The only way of keeping these ‘bubble babies’ safe from infection is to care for them in a ‘bubble’, a high tech sterile room, and their only chance of survival is to give them a completely new immune system. Giving them a bone marrow transplant is a difficult treatment, but is the only way.

The good news is, that if successful, the babies grow new immune cells and can leave their ‘bubble’ and go home to live normal lives. And that’s all thanks to the extraordinary team at the Newcastle General Hospital, and one lady in particular, Gill Johnston.

In 1988 the first ‘Bubble Baby’ was referred to the children’s ward where Gill worked (later developed into the Children’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit). The unit required some toys, and that was Gill’s first foray into fundraising and blagging. It was tremendous success, and before she knew it, she had hit £10,000, at which point they had to set up as a charity to deal with the funds.

In 1992, Gill was involved in the setting up of the Bubble Foundation UK, and worked full time as the Fundraising Manager, travelling all over the UK and Ireland raising awareness and funds for the Foundation. To date, it has raised £4 million.

Gill and the nurses on the ward raise money in their spare time to fund services to support not just their patients, but their patient’s families too. This includes counselling, subsidised travel costs, access to therapeutic services like yoga, aromatherapy and reflexology. This money also goes towards funding ongoing cutting edge medical research to help tackle the conditions they treat day in and day out.

It is a tribute to Gill that survival rates for the children who are treated on the Bubble Unit have risen significantly. When she first started, 4 out of 10 children died; now, 9 out of 10 survive.

Do The Right Thing brought some of the children and families together to say a massive thank you to Gill, whose efforts and dedication has saved hundreds of lives.

If you would like to help ‘bubble babies’ and make a contribution to the Bubble Foundation, please follow the link below: