Helping hand for seriously ill kids

Morpeth Lions Club President Geoff Bushell and Lion Ian Brown present a cheque for �150 to Gill Johnston from the Bubble Foundation.
Morpeth Lions Club President Geoff Bushell and Lion Ian Brown present a cheque for �150 to Gill Johnston from the Bubble Foundation.

Morpeth Lions Club

AT a recent club meeting, Gill Johnston of the Bubble Foundation gave an illuminating talk about the charity, which has been treating children born without an immune system since 1987.

Its work involves providing bone marrow transplants and since 1994 and 2000 respectively, the Unit has also been treating children with leukaemia and severe forms of arthritis.

There are only two centres in the UK – Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, and the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle – which have a total of 21 beds.

The Newcastle hospital covers patients from Birmingham to the north of Scotland, as well as Ireland.

It also aims to support children with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). This is a gene deficiency which means they cannot fight infection. It is normally diagnosed within three to four months of a baby being born and without treatment, all the babies die.

Whilst bone marrow treatment from family donors has a 30 per cent to 40 per cent chance of matching, the Unit is able to call on the Anthony Nolan Trust to make a worldwide search for donors.

The children also undergo a 10-day preparatory treatment involving chemotherapy, which is up to 10 times stronger than the preparatory treatment normally given to cancer patients.

The Bubble Foundation is so named because once diagnosed, the babies are placed in isolation in a ‘bubble’ of sterile air, which with today’s technology is a room measuring about 13 feet square. Sterile air is pumped into the area by a laminar down-flow system, then filtered out to ensure the unit is kept germ free.

The fund-raising appeal was started by nurses from the Unit in 1992.

As the children and families involved are in and visiting hospital for several months, toys, furniture and parental and educational support needs to be funded, together with vitally important research and equipment. The appeal has been boosted by occasional grant making trusts and company donations.

As a result of the Unit’s work and focused, research the survival rates of children in the North East following treatment have risen from 50 per cent to 80 per cent.

Bubble Foundation President, broadcaster, author and columnist Denise Robertson, has had a huge influence in the fund-raising, which proved increasingly difficult in the recession therefore smaller donations from individuals and organisations are very important.

Morpeth Lions Club President Geoff Bushell thanked Mrs Johnston for her excellent presentation.

He added: “This really has been an eye opener and makes me appreciate the excellent work being undertaken in the North East for the benefit of those children who have had an unfortunate start to their lives.”

For more details about the charity, call Mrs Johnston on 0191 2823460 or visit