A local family is calling on the people of Northern Ireland to support the life-changing work of the Bubble Foundation, a charity that gave their seriously ill son the chance to live a normal, happy life.
Four-year old Oscar McLaughlin, from Portstewart, is living proof of why the Bubble Foundation, which supports babies and young children with severe immunodeficiencies, is so vital.
Little Oscar, who started school in September, became ill at 7 months old, contracting pneumonia. When he didn’t respond to antibiotics, Oscar underwent multiple tests, and was eventually diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening condition – SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency).
Without urgent treatment in the Bubble Unit, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Oscar wouldn’t have survived.
Oscar’s mum, Olivia explained: “Oscar was seven months old, and it was my first day back at work when he became poorly. He was diagnosed with pneumonia, but he didn’t respond to the usual treatment, and two days later he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit in Belfast.
“In Belfast, Oscar was diagnosed with SCID. One moment we had a perfectly healthy baby, the next he was suffering from a life-threatening condition. It was horrifying, we had no idea what was ahead of us.”
The condition mens that even the simplest ‘common cold’ virus passed on by a mother’s kiss can kill.
After spending a week in intensive care in Belfast, including his first Christmas, Oscar was transferred by air ambulance to the Bubble Unit in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Oscar was kept in isolation in the Bubble – a sterilised room designed to protect from any bugs or bacteria – for more than five months. Here he underwent a bone marrow transplant, a painful and intensive procedure, but vital if he was to survive: “There was no alternative for Oscar, it was transplant or death. There is no way he would have survived without it. It was a horrendous time, but now, nearly four years on he is well, and living a normal life,” told Olivia.
The family are urging others to support the Bubble Foundation. Without sufficient funding the charity is under threat of closure: “This is a life-saving unit where all children from Ireland who have this problem will be referred to, the things they do are absolutely priceless,” said Olivia.