Sparks Charity

Sparks is a leading medical research charity dedicated to funding pioneering research into wide ranging conditions and disabilities affecting babies, children and mums-to-be. Our mission is to have a practical and positive effect on the everyday lives of chldren by investing in high quality medical research.
Dec 16, 2013

Helping children with sickle cell disease

Life with sickle cell disease

Four year old Jacob was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at birth. His mum Sheree tells us about the impact this has had on their lives and why she is so keen to raise awareness and support for Sparks' research.

"I was 41 when I had Jacob, and as an older mum I thought I would get tested for Downs Syndrome and other conditions, just in case. When it came back that my baby had sickle cell disease, I thought it had to be wrong."

Sickle cell crises

"Jacob had his first "crisis" when he was a baby, which is a painful attack caused by sickle cell. At first it was a shock, but now I'm much better at spotting them. I can tell if he's about to have a mini crisis as he looks jaundiced, his eyes go yellow and his hands and feet begin to swell. I know how to feel for his spleen in case it is enlarged, and if it gets to severe then I will take him to hospital. The pain can be excruciating.

Despite everything, he's so good with taking his medicine, and half the time reminds me of what he needs. He takes penicillin daily to boost his low immune system and also has regular check ups and brain scans. Sickle cell patients run a higher risk of suffering a stroke, so early risk detection is important.

One of my biggest worries as Jacob starts school is making sure that he is taken care of. He must never be put at risk of promting a crisis by getting too hot, too cold or doing strenuous activity, which means he can miss out. I want him to be able to do normal things like running, football or swimming. I am fighting to get him access to the warmer hydropool so that he can do more than just watch his sister Savannah enjoy the water. Last year we managed to get him out in the snow for the first time with special boots and a snow suit. Usually he only gets to watch his friends from the window."

Giving something back

"Jacob has given me great determination to help him and other sufferers. All the times he has been in hospital he has been so brave - he really inspires me. It's meant a lot to me to be able to give something back, and I have done all kinds of fundraising from running marathons to holding car boot sales. Before Jacob, I would never have thought about doing any of these things.

It's important to talk about your feelings to other people - even if it still makes you cry every time. Talking to other families has helped me understand more about the condition and how to cope with the illness.

My life is dedicated to my children. My daughter Savannah is a carrier of the sickle cell gene like me, but I am determined to raise awareness about the condition. I hope that I can help make a difference.

Sparks research into new therapies for sickle cell is invaluable. It is a lifelong condition, and improving methods of treatment would greatly enhance the quality of life for children like Jacob. I am so grateful to Sparks for funding this vital research."

Nov 20, 2013

Predicting pre-eclampsia in pregnancy

Heidi was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia when she was 27 weeks pregnant. One week later, her daughter Chloe was delivered by emergency caesarean, weighing just 1lb 8.5oz. Heidi explains how pre-eclampsia has affected their lives, and why she’s so keen to support research into improving the diagnosis of this condition.

“I’m a midwife myself, and my friend noticed I looked under the weather when I was on the nightshift. I was 27 weeks and two days pregnant. I was very surprised to be diagnosed with pre-eclampsia as I had felt fine all the way up to my diagnosis.

Chloe was delivered at 28 weeks and one day by emergency caesarean – I was over the moon as my consultant said getting past 28 weeks is crucial. She weighed just 1lb 8.5oz and had to be put on a ventilator.

Effects of pre-eclampsia

“My daughter is now four years old, and she’s obviously the one who has been most affected by pre-eclampsia. She had such a tricky start to life but she continues to surprise us with how well she’s doing. She was at a higher risk of complications because I had developed the condition so early on in my pregnancy.

Chloe suffers from chronic lung disease, due to scarring on her lungs. She suffers more than others with wheezing and really bad coughs, but she will grow out of this eventually. We tend to be a bit more anxious with her than we would probably be with a full-term, healthy child, but I think most parents would be the same. She will always be smaller than a full-term child, as she has a lot of catching up to do, but developmentally she has caught up with other children.

I donated my placenta for Sparks research into pre-eclampsia. I really look forward to seeing the results of Sparks research project to improve diagnosis of pre-eclampsia. At the moment, I would shy away from getting pregnant with another child in the fear of suffering from the condition again. My consultant told me that, as I had early onset pre-eclampsia, there is a one-in-four chance of it happening again. If researchers could find a marker that would show if it would happen again, or could pick up on it earlier, it would be a massive breakthrough for me, and for all those other mums out there.”

Research for the future

“For those of you who have raised money or awareness for Sparks, I am eternally grateful. Anything that can help prevent other women going through what I’ve gone through, and what I see other pregnant women going through everyday, can only be a good thing. I look forward to the day that research can pinpoint those women at risk of pre-eclampsia, and maybe one day they can prevent it from happening at all.”

Sep 12, 2013

Predicting pre-eclampsia in pregnancy

Heidi was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia when she was 27 weeks pregnant. One week later, her daughter Chloe was delivered by emergency caesarean, weighing just 1lb 8.5oz.

Heidi explains how pre-eclampsia has affected their lives, and why she’s so keen to support research into improving the diagnosis of this condition.

“I’m a midwife myself, and my friend noticed I looked under the weather when I was on the nightshift. I was 27 weeks and two days pregnant. I was very surprised to be diagnosed with pre-eclampsia as I had felt fine all the way up to my diagnosis.

Chloe was delivered at 28 weeks and one day by emergency caesarean – I was over the moon as my consultant said getting past 28 weeks is crucial. She weighed just 1lb 8.5oz and had to be put on a ventilator.

Effects of pre-eclampsia

“My daughter is now four years old, and she’s obviously the one who has been most affected by pre-eclampsia. She had such a tricky start to life but she continues to surprise us with how well she’s doing. She was at a higher risk of complications because I had developed the condition so early on in my pregnancy.

Chloe suffers from chronic lung disease, due to scarring on her lungs. She suffers more than others with wheezing and really bad coughs, but she will grow out of this eventually. We tend to be a bit more anxious with her than we would probably be with a full-term, healthy child, but I think most parents would be the same. She will always be smaller than a full-term child, as she has a lot of catching up to do, but developmentally she has caught up with other

I donated my placenta for Sparks research into pre-eclampsia. I really look forward to seeing the results of Sparks research project to improve diagnosis of pre-eclampsia.

At the moment, I would shy away from getting pregnant with another child in the fear of suffering from the condition again. My consultant told me that, as I had early onset pre-eclampsia, there is a one-in-four chance of it happening again. If researchers could find a marker that would show if it would happen again, or could pick up on it earlier, it would be a massive breakthrough for me, and for all those other mums out there.”

Research for the future

“For those of you who have raised money or awareness for Sparks, I am eternally grateful. Anything that can help prevent other women going through what I’ve gone through, and what I see other pregnant women going through everyday, can only be a good thing. I look forward to the day that research can pinpoint those women at risk of pre-eclampsia, and maybe one day they can prevent it from happening at all.”

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