“Test results made us think we’d never be able to bring our son home.”
After Ethan was starved of oxygen at birth, it was a Sparks-funded research innovation – cooling treatment – that saved his life. The impact of this treatment inspired Ethan’s dad and grandad, Chris and Phil, to fundraise for Sparks to help more children like Ethan.
“Ever since my son, Chris, and his wife, Reah, told us they were expecting a baby, I was looking forward to becoming a grandad,” says Phil. “Complications never really crossed my mind.”
“After a very difficult 26-hour labour, Reah gave birth to Ethan. But, unfortunately, he was blue and lifeless. The maternity staff were unable to get him breathing and he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital, Coventry. At this point, neither Chris or Reah had any idea what was going on.”
“After what felt like the longest five hours of my life, I got to see my son properly for the first time,” says Ethan’s dad, Chris.
“Nothing could have prepared us for the sight we saw... Ethan was in an incubator on full life support with antibiotics, sedatives, morphine and feeding tubes, and with various monitoring alarms constantly going off. The neonatal consultant explained to us that Ethan’s core temperature was being cooled to 33⁰C as part of the ‘cooling treatment’, and that he would stay on this for four days.
“During this period, Reah and I didn’t know what Ethan’s prognosis would be. Results from a neurological assessment made us think that we’d never be able to bring our son home – we were both distraught.”
Phil adds: “After an assessment from the neonatal staff, it was established Ethan had encountered oxygen deprivation at birth. The doctors decided to put him into ‘therapeutic hypothermia’. This is essentially a cooling treatment, which helps to reduce brain swelling and the chance of permanent brain damage.
“To witness Chris and Reah go through so much distress, was something I never wish to see ever again, it was heart-breaking. All I could think of was that oxygen starvation at birth can lead to life-changing problems.”
“Amazingly, after four days, Ethan’s body temperature was restored, and his breathing started to improve,” says Chris. “He was then taken off life support and, having gone through an MRI scan and various other checks, we were told that Ethan should make a full recovery.
“Reah and I couldn’t believe it! It was a whirlwind of emotions, going from one extreme to another – we couldn’t stop smiling and are eternally thankful to the staff and the technology that helped save Ethan’s life.”
Fundraising for Sparks
“We were keen to find out more about the ‘cooling treatment’, so we looked into the origins,” says Phil. “We discovered that Sparks was highly involved in its research. They even helped it to reach national acclaim and become an NHS standard procedure throughout the country, helping hundreds more babies like Ethan every day.”
“To say thank you, Dad and I took on Prudential RideLondon, a 100-mile cycle ride around London and Surrey, and raised £1,200 for Sparks,” says Chris.
“We need research like that funded by Sparks to help clinicians better diagnose, treat and cure the most complex of conditions, giving families like ours hope.”
For critically ill children like Ethan, there’s no time to lose.
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