A charity which supports the life-saving work of babies and children suffering from some of the most severe immune conditions, today launches its biggest ever fundraising appeal – ‘Bubbles for the Bubble’. The Bubble Foundation UK works in partnership with the Children’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, and supports families from across the world out of its base at the Great North Children’s Hospital, Newcastle.

Children from across the country and as far away as Finland, Russia, Slovenia, Libya and Saudi Arabia have been treated in the world-leading facility, one of only two such specialist centres in the UK. The unit treats babies born without an immune system and unable to fight infection, through bone marrow transplantation. The most severe condition, Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID), is fatal if untreated within a year of birth. Even the simplest ‘common cold’ virus passed on by a mother’s kiss can kill. The Unit also treats older children suffering from immune deficiencies, leukaemia and childhood arthritis.

The Bubble Foundation raises vital funds for the Unit, financing medical equipment, toys and educational aids, supporting the welfare of the babies, children and their families, and importantly funds research required at this cutting edge of paediatric practice. The Bubble needs to raise around £500,000 to fund vital new strands of research into genetic causes of Primary Immunodeficiency (PIDs), as well as research into the outcomes of treatment to ultimately improve the lives of people with immune disorders.

In many cases, the only treatment that offers a chance of surviving these illnesses is a bone marrow transplant – a difficult and painful process – which if successful, means babies and children can make a full recovery and go home to live normal, healthy lives.

Parents of children who have experienced life in the ‘bubble’ – an eight foot square ‘bubble’ of sterile air which protects from bugs and bacteria – are backing the appeal, which challenges people to take to social media and show their ‘bubbly side’ to raise money for the charity.

They are sharing their stories and experiences of their time in The Bubble and urging people to get behind the appeal, highlighting the difference it has made to their lives.

Maureen Cairns, mum of seven-year-old Lily Thornton, who spent six months in The Bubble and was treated successfully, explained why she is behind the campaign. Lily, from Whitley Bay, became ill at nine months old. She was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening condition – HLH (hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis) – which meant her body didn’t know when to stop attacking bugs or illnesses, and, without treatment, would have led to total organ failure.

Maureen said: “You just never know when it might happen to you and what’s round the corner. We were perfectly healthy people, we just didn’t expect it.

“I’ve never experienced such gut wrenching fear. When you see your child going through that suffering, you’d give anything for it to be you in their place. The support network you have around you at The Bubble is what got us through. The research and treatments the team are pioneering are just amazing and without that, we wouldn’t be where we are today, with the happy little girl we have. I would urge people everywhere to support The Bubble – it really does make all the difference.”

16-year-old Dublin based Tim Coyne was diagnosed with Chronic Granulomatous Disorder – also known as CGD – a rare immune disorder, just before his fourth birthday. Throughout his early years, he was particularly vulnerable to major infections, such as pneumonia, which he contracted as a young child. Tim was on a constant stream of antibiotics – unable to take part in any normal childhood activities.

CGD is a life-threatening, life-limiting illness, with sufferers unable to fight bacterial or fungal infections effectively. Without the pioneering work of medics at the Bubble Unit in Newcastle, where Tim stayed for around four months in 2007, Tim’s illness would have left him on constant medication, with his life ultimately cut short.

Mum Joan, a B&B owner, said: “Tim is a happy, healthy teenage boy, in his second to last year at secondary school. He loves sailing, and is very involved in music and theatre. He has never looked back.

“It was still scary when we left the security of The Bubble, but in time, we found our way back to normal life. I’ll be forever indebted to the amazing staff. If Tim had been born 20 years ago, I don’t know where we’d be today – but because of The Bubble’s live-saving work, he’s doing so well.”

Tim himself rarely talks about his experiences, preferring to look forward, but speaking today, he said: “Even though I know now that I was seriously ill when I was in The Bubble, I never really considered the enormity of it at the time and do have happy memories of my time in Newcastle. All the staff were great, I think they do such an amazing job.

“Without The Bubble, I wouldn’t be where I am today – on the road to becoming a sound engineer, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Through funds raised from the ‘Bubbles for the Bubble’ campaign, The Bubble Foundation can continue to support the vital research and advances in medical science which gives young people like Lily and Tim the chance to live normal, healthy lives.

In 20 years the work of the Bubble Unit has taken survival rates from six in 10 babies dying, to nine in 10 babies living – yet with new strands of research emerging all the time, there is so much more still to be done to help find cures for severe immune disorders and other childhood diseases.

Donating is simple. All you have to do is post your own bubble selfie or bubble related video, which can be of anything from blowing bubbles to doing the washing up! Join in at The Bubble Foundation’s social media channels, and text donate to BUBB01 (+ amount you want to donate – £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10), to 70070, or donate via https://www.justgiving.com/bubblefoundation/