Thank you for your support of Sparks’ pioneering children’s medical research. Your amazing generosity helps fund research to find better treatments and cures for childhood illnesses and to improve the quality of life of children with a range of medical conditions.
Conditions like heart problems, which affect one in every 100 babies making it one of the most common birth defects in the UK. These babies often have problems specifically in the right chamber of their heart, just like Calum. Now 10, Calum has spoken about this in his own words and the ongoing impact it has on his life.
“When I was 6 hours old, the doctors came to check on me and listen to my heart. They heard that it didn’t sound right. By lunchtime the next day, the murmur still hadn’t gone so they decided I would have to have an ultrasound and found some major parts of my heart were missing. It was very scary for my mum and dad because they knew that I had quite a serious problem.”
When Calum’s heart was forming, the two main arteries didn’t separate and twist as they normally would, but rather stayed together as a trunk. This meant that Calum had to undergo surgery at just 10 days old.
“The doctors separated the two chambers at the bottom of my heart and then put in a man-made tube to make part of my pulmonary artery, which carries blood from the right chamber of the heart to the lungs. This makes it separate like it should have done.
My next operation was when I was 4. The tube inside me doesn’t grow like I do so they have to change it. I also get scar tissue where they put the tube, and if this builds up, the passages become narrow so my heart has to work harder. This means I had to have another operation and another one when I was 6.” Calum is also due further operations throughout his life.
How we’re helping
Despite being one of the most common birth defects, there has been little research into this area and there are currently no medicines for children with this condition.
Babies may grow up with high-pressure in the right chamber of their heart, affecting their ability to take part in daily activities, sports and games. Sadly, when some of these children reach their teens or adulthood, they can suffer heart failure and early death.
Sparks funded researcher, Professor Robert Tulloh, is looking into ways to improve the length and quality of life of children with this condition. His team will investigate the changes that are occurring in the heart muscle and determine the cause of the failure in the right heart chamber. They aim to develop better treatments for many children affected by heart problems at birth and beyond.
Without supporters like you, Sparks wouldn’t be able to fund research into serious conditions like congenital heart defects that affect babies in the very early stages of their lives.