Oscar having cooling treatment with his father looking at him

Dave and Paula thought they had a perfectly normal pregnancy and birth but soon realised something was wrong. Their son Oscar suffered hypoxic brain injury and was at a significant risk of severe disability or death. He received innovative combination cooling treatment as part of a Sparks-funded research programme. Oscar’s dad, Dave, tells us their story. 

“‘He’ll be fine,’ they told us when Oscar was born. But we knew – something was very wrong. After a ‘perfect labour’ he looked blue, struggled to breathe and had several fits. We were numb as the baby we had waited so long for was taken away from us. The special care baby unit was only down the corridor but it felt a million miles from our dreams.

Oscar had sustained a hypoxic brain injury – a period without oxygen during birth had damaged his brain. The prognosis was poor.

Oscar was transferred to St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol where he was clinically cooled to 33 degrees Celsius to give his brain time to recover by Professor Marianne Thoresen, and her team. By cooling his whole body they would attempt to protect him from any further damage as a result of the asphyxia he suffered.

We also had the opportunity to take part in Professor Thoresen’s  Sparks-funded combination cooling treatment trial with  xenon gas. Early evidence had suggested by adding xenon to keep babies asleep while cooling could significantly increase their chance of a normal outcome.

“Oscar received 12 hours of xenon therapy and was kept cooled for three days before being slowly rewarmed. At 10 days old we finally got to take our son home.”

Coping with brain injury

“Oscar’s brain injury changed our lives from that moment. When pregnant and asked, ‘Would you like a boy or a girl?’ everyone says, ‘We don’t mind – as long as it’s healthy!’ You don’t understand the significance of this until you hold your baby in your arms – so perfect on the outside – but not knowing how ‘damaged’ he may be internally.

We have a very supportive family and friends who have kept us going during a very difficult first year. Oscar’s illness has affected us all. The insecurity of the future is still very hard to cope with but we are a little more optimistic with every day that goes by. His development will be carefully monitored.

There are no words to describe just how amazing the work that Marianne and her research team do. They change the lives of brain injured children and their families. They have given us our son back. They have reduced the chance of him suffering from a disability and given him the opportunity to reach his full potential.

We need more research

dave edit“This research is truly ground breaking. Brain injury impacts the individual, their family and society. To find treatments that reduce the catastrophe of brain injury is a marvel.

Previously Sparks has funded research into ‘therapeutic cooling’ for brain injured babies. This treatment has now been introduced globally – reducing disability for children now and in the future. Without research this would never have been possible.

Xenon may be the magic we need for brain injured babies in all areas of medicine. However, it may not be. Only research can answer this question. Rigorous and thorough trials need to be undertaken and this is both expensive and time consuming. Without Sparks this research may not happen.”

Oscar’s first birthday

DSC_0281“For Oscar’s first birthday we organised a big party. We wanted to celebrate his first year but also thank our friends, family and the medical team who supported us.
“We organised a big children’s party  with a hog roast for the adults and asked people to donate to Sparks instead of bringing presents.”

Oscar’s party raised nearly £300.  We will always continue to support Sparks. There are many good causes around to donate to however we believe that investing in the wellbeing of our children is the best way of securing the future for everyone.”

Find out more about Sparks research projects into oxygen deprivation

Your donations help children like Oscar.