South Tyneside couple’s plea to save children’s ‘bubble unit’

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A SOUTH Tyneside couple have spoken out in support of the unique hospital unit that saved their son’s life.

Robbie Young, 12, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, in October last year.

He underwent six cycles of gruelling chemotherapy, which damaged his immune system.

In May, the South Shields Community School pupil underwent a bone marrow transplant at the Great North Children’s Hospital, based at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

As he recovered, he spent time at the Bubble Unit, one of only two nationally designated services that treat children with little or no immune system.

This unit is now under threat due to the sharp reduction in donations to The Bubble Foundation UK, which was set up 21 years ago in support of the service.

Robbie, from Copley Avenue, Whiteleas, South Shields, was kept in isolation for three months and still attends the unit each week.

Mum Trisha Oley, 49, said: “Our world was turned upside down when Robbie was diagnosed with his illness.

“When Robbie was in the Bubble Unit, it was hard because you could have no physical contact with him and, as a mum, it was difficult not to hug him. I was terrified to go into the unit, but the staff make you feel so comfortable and put us all at ease.” Robbie is back home with his parents, twin brother Ryan and sister Ellie, nine, but continues to receive treatment.

Dad Edward, 47, said: “It is important that people are aware of what goes on in the Bubble Unit and how important it is.”

Robbie has been fundraising for the Bubble Foundation by selling items that he has made.

He said: “All the staff at the unit are nice and I want to raise money for them.”

The Bubble Foundation funds medical equipment, toys, educational aids and research into immunity problems.

Over the last two decades, it has given more than £1m to research schemes and bought ground-breaking medical equipment.

Its president, agony aunt Denise Robertson, from East Boldon, said: “Thanks to the support of the charity, children’s lives have been transformed and saved in a way that would not previously have been possible.”

Since the Bubble Unit opened in 1992, 370 children with immune deficiency problems have had a bone marrow transplant.

An estimated 1,400 children a year are seen in clinics on Ward 3 – officially named the Children’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.

Anyone who wants to support the charity can visit

Twitter: @shieldsgazedu