Riley, who suffered oxygen deprivation during birth

Riley suffered oxygen deprivation during birth and was at a high risk of permanent brain injury. Thanks to Sparks-funded research, he is now a healthy two-year-old. Riley’s parents, Dave and Sarah, tell us their story and explain why funding life-saving research is so important.

“When Riley was born without a pulse and not breathing, everything went into overdrive. It was a complete shock,” says Dave.

“My wife Sarah’s pregnancy had been perfectly normal and there was no hint it would turn into such a life-or-death drama.”

Riley was transferred by ambulance to the specialist team, led by Consultant Neonatologist and Professor of Neonatal Neuroscience Marianne Thoresen, at St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol. I was able to go with him, but Sarah was too physically weak and shocked by the birth trauma and had to stay in hospital in Bath. That was terrible for her.”

Meeting Sparks’ researcher

“Professor Thoresen explained how precarious the situation was, and then gently but very informatively told me about her work with xenon gas. She asked whether we would consider allowing Riley to become the first baby in the world to receive a combined cooling and xenon gas treatment, in a bid to prevent brain damage and possible permanent disability. We were told the treatment would have to start before Riley was 12 hours old. It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made. But, somehow, everything seemed to click into place. We were in the right place at the right time.

Riley is now two and is a perfectly normal, healthy toddler. He’s full of energy and sometimes a bit of a risk-taker! His favourite thing to do by far is to have a bath and he absolutely loves being in the water with bubbles and toys.”

“We are so grateful for the opportunity Riley had, and we would love all sick babies to have the same chance.”

“Everyone is very pleased with Riley’s progress and believes he is developing like any other child his age, which is brilliant news. We’re so grateful to Professor Thoresen and Sparks for their fantastic work in cooling treatments, and for pioneering the addition of xenon gas, to give babies like Riley an even better chance of survival.”

Riley ‘Xenon’

“We know it is very special that Riley was the first baby in the world to be given the xenon gas treatment. So we chose Xenon as Riley’s middle name, as a constant reminder of how fortunate we were – although Riley will probably have a lot of explaining to do when he’s older!”

Sarah says “If it wasn’t for Sparks funding, Marianne may not have been able to carry out her research and Riley wouldn’t have had the opportunity that he did. It’s scary to think that he could have been facing a very different future to the one he looks forward to today. We are happy to be a part of Sparks and contribute with our own fundraising. We held an auction back in June, contacting local businesses for prizes, and were overwhelmed by the donations we received. We raised just over £5,300.

It’s great to know this money will go towards helping other children and families in the future. We are so grateful for the opportunity Riley had, and we would love all sick babies to have the same chance.”

The first baby in the world

Dave and Sarah talk about their experiences when Riley was born and then meet Sparks’ President Sir Geoff Hurst.

Find out more about Sparks research projects into oxygen deprivation

Your donations help children like Riley.