Candle lit vigil held for Carter Cookson as mum pleads for people to help spread her message of hope
As Carter Cookson's parents remained by his hospital bedside, more than 100 people tonight stood on the steps of South Shields Town Hall as they led a candle lit vigil in his honour.
The gathering was held to spread the word of the #findcarteraheart campaign, launched as his parents Sarah and Chris plead for help to find their baby boy the lifesaving transplant he needs.
Born on Boxing Day, he has suffered a number of complications, and underwent surgery on his heart when he was just a few days old.
Sarah and Chris, from South Shields, have been told by the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle a heart is needed within days due to issues with the Ecmo machine, which is keep him alive.
As supporters lit candles outside the town hall, a speech prepared by Sarah was read out by Joanne Nicholson, a family friend who works for the Charlie Cookson Foundation, the charity was launched by the couple after they lost their firstborn son in 2013 due to a mystery condition and a series of health problems,
The foundation said it was overwhelmed by the turnout and added the support the appeal has received showed “South Shields doing what it does best.”
Sarah’s speech thanked all those who joined the vigil and said the couple were already “so proud” of their home town for the love shown when Charlie needed help.
She added: “Now, when his little brother is in need of a miracle, you have all done everything in your power to give him the best change of receiving a donated heart – the gift of life.
“We suffered so much heartache with our Charlie, the heartache we tried our best to turn into passion, to keep his name alive to help families who are also suffering.
“Then to face the devastating news that our second son could also lose his battle to stay alive is unbearable.
“Keep believing, keep praying, keep sharing his story.
“We are strength in numbers, we feel your arms around us.”
Among those to join in the vigil were Shannon Handyside, 24, from Biddick Hall, and her daughter Ivy Wilson, three, and Rachael Hindhaugh, 45, also from South Shields, who is Shannon's colleague at White Feather House, massage therapist in Charlotte Terrace.
Shannon, who knows Sarah as a visitor to the business, said: "Like everybody in South Shields, we hope they find him a heart.
"We just can't believe what's happened and it's so sad, but we really wish they will find him a heart."
Rachael, who also knows Chris as a former colleague when they worked in retail, added: "We're just hoping he gets that heart, because that's all he needs to get better.
"We also want to raise awareness and we hope we can get the message out there and also help others in the same situation."
Ruth Harrison, 67, and her granddaughter Ellie-Mae Harrison, 13, a student at Harton Academy, also gathered for the event.
Ellie-Mae, a former student of the Sarah Howe Howe Cookson School of Dance, run by Carter's mum, said: "I wanted to come down and show my support, but also show my respects to my old dance teacher and my dance family.
"Everybody in South Shields is behind them."
At a council meeting following the vigil, Mayor of South Tyneside, Ken Stephenson said: “What his family are facing is truly unimaginable.”
He added he had sent his thoughts and prayers to the Cookson and backed their appeal to raise awareness of their appeal.