“We owe Joseph’s life to Sparks.”
Thanks to funding from Sparks, research into cooling treatment for babies who are starved of oxygen saved one-year-old Joseph’s life when he was just a few hours old.
At 35 weeks pregnant, Joseph’s mum, Kerry, was rushed to hospital, bleeding and in pain following a “fairly normal” pregnancy. Arriving five weeks early, Joseph was born within minutes. “It was horrendous,” says Joseph’s dad, Sam. “If it had been five minutes later, Kerry and Joseph would have died because they both lost so much blood. It was all a bit unreal.”
Joseph’s heartbeat had stopped before he’d even been born. For 15 minutes, a six-person medical team battled to get his heart started, then rushed him into intensive care.
Sam explains the transfer to Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust hospital that followed that day: “Kerry was sobbing… The doctors came down with Joseph in this incubator. Joseph and I travelled in an ambulance for an hour and half with two doctors, and we had to stop on the way as Joseph was having trouble breathing.”
Kerry had to stay in the local hospital in Grimsby, too ill to travel to Sheffield with her baby.
“Think of it like pressing ‘control, alt, delete’ on your computer...”
Arriving at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Joseph was unresponsive. He was immediately transferred to Jessop Ward to receive life-saving cooling treatment, which worked to reduce injury to the brain.
“He was cooled for 72 hours. Until then, he was ‘clinically depressed’ – there was no response from him. Then suddenly, as if someone had switched on a light, his brain waves went from being really dense to normal.
“It was amazing. Three or four doctors quickly gathered to see what had happened on the screen showing his brain waves, because that sudden transition is really, really rare.
“When I describe the treatment to my friends, I ask them to think of it like pressing ‘control, alt, delete’ on your computer. It cools the brain down and it’s a way to restart it."
“I was expecting the effects of the cooling to leave Joseph cold, but it’s only cooled by a few degrees. Those few degrees can make so much difference.”
Now one year old, Joseph is the happiest little boy. Everyone he sees, he smiles at. He loves Peppa Pig and ‘bum shuffles’ everywhere – although he recently took his first steps!
“I want Joseph to be grateful for research.”
After research saved Joseph’s life, Sam, Kerry and the rest of the family are keen to raise funds for Sparks, ensuring more families can benefit from childhood medical research. Sam recently ran the London Marathon to fundraise, and the family are planning a brass band concert for the charity.
“If the research hadn’t been done and Joseph didn’t have the treatment, then we wouldn’t have Joseph,” says Sam. “We may have had a completely different Joseph or no Joseph at all. It’s amazing. We owe Joseph’s life to Sparks! And that’s it, we definitely do.”
Kerry plans to explain to her son how research has directly helped him: “I want Joseph to grow up understanding what he went through and that a lot of people put a lot of time in to develop that research so he could benefit from it. I want him to be grateful for research.”
For critically ill children like Joseph, there’s no time to lose.
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