A mum from Sunderland is took on the Great North Run to raise money for The Sick Children’s Trust, the charity that supported her when her son was seriously ill in hospital.
Louise Pratt completed the iconic 13.1-mile route through Newcastle on Sunday 11 September to thank the charity for keeping her close to her son, Taylor, when he underwent a bone marrow transplant. Taylor was born happy and healthy in November 2013 but, when just a few months old, he began picking up colds and infections with regularity.
When Louise noticed several unexplained bruises on his stomach, she became concerned and took Taylor to A&E at Sunderland Hospital where he underwent numerous tests, with Louise being warned that his conditions could be linked to leukaemia. As they awaited the results Taylor was transferred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle, a hospital with specialist children’s wards.
While further tests in Newcastle ruled out cancer, Taylor was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. This meant that he didn’t have a working immune system, making him highly susceptible to colds and infections. Because Taylor was unable to fight off the viruses, they were also a threat to his life. Taylor’s only treatment option was to have a bone marrow transplant, so he was moved to a specialist isolation ward and given medication before undergoing chemotherapy, a necessary move to ensure he wasn’t carrying any illnesses or infections before his transplant.
Taylor was six months old when he underwent a successful transplant, but the chemotherapy caused his kidneys to go into failure. He was moved to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), ventilated and placed on a dialysis machine. Until this point Louise had been able to sleep next to Taylor’s bedside. However, with parents unable to stay on the intensive care wards, Louise was then supported with a place to stay at Crawford House, a ‘Home from Home’ run by The Sick Children’s Trust which is located just two minutes from the hospital.
Over the next seven months Taylor spent time between the transplant ward and the PICU, with Louise staying at Crawford House on three occasions. Eventually he was able to return home with an oxygen machine, but after just a week back in Sunderland he picked up another group of illnesses. He was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition which damages the lungs and reduces the body’s ability to create oxygen. With his blood vessels also being too narrow he was struggling to get oxygen around his body correctly. Sadly, these group of illnesses were too much for him and he passed away aged 11 months. Louise raised funds for the charity by taking on the Great North Run. Louise said:
“I hadn’t slept properly since being at the hospital with Taylor, so by the time he was moved to the PICU I was exhausted. When I went to Crawford House I got the first proper night’s sleep I’d had in seven weeks. There was phone in the room which linked directly to the ward so if there was any change the staff could let me know immediately. That helped me to relax a little bit in the evenings.
“Taylor’s condition was always changing so it was a big comfort to know I was always close to him. There is no way I would have travelled from Sunderland every day and my only option would have been to sleep in the car. The Sick Children’s Trust gave me a quiet place to process everything that was going on.
“While our story doesn’t have a happy ending, I still have good memories of Crawford House and the incredibly supportive staff. I wanted to do something to challenge myself and raise money for this brilliant charity and the Great North Run was a great way for me to do both.”
The Sick Children’s Trust does not charge families to stay in any of its ten ‘Homes from Home’ and this year the charity is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Since 1982 it has supported over 73,000 families, like Louise’s, with a place to stay close to their seriously ill child’s hospital bedside. Community Fundraising Manager, Elisa Coppello-Dowd, said:
“We’re so incredibly sorry for Louise’s loss but we’re glad we could keep her together with Taylor so she could always be by his side throughout his treatment.
“We can’t thank Louise enough for taking on the Great North Run to support us. While it is completely free for a family to stay in our ‘Homes from Home’, it does cost the charity £40 to support a family for one night. That is why the generosity of our supporters and the efforts of fundraisers like Louise are so vital in making sure we can continue to be there supporting more families.
More information about Louise’s fundraising can be found on her fundraising page on the Great North Run website https://greatnorthrun.enthuse.com/pf/louise-pratt