Children’s surgeon takes on Great North Run | Action Medical Research

Children’s surgeon takes on Great North Run

16 May 2013

Children’s surgeon David Wilkinson, of the Institute of Child Health, Alder Hey Children's Hospital and Liverpool University, is running the 2013 BUPA Great North Run to help children’s charity Action Medical Research to save and change the lives of sick and disabled babies and children.

This 2013 Great North Run will be David’s first. A keen ‘keep fit’ runner, around the 10k distance mark, the half marathon will definitely be a challenge for him. He is looking forward to standing on the starting line with 55,000 people and once again taking in the electric Newcastle atmosphere. The route will take him over the iconic Tyne Bridge, passing the famous international athletic stadium and heading towards the beautiful coastal town of South Shields where the Red Arrows welcome runners to the finish line with a spectacular display.

Action Medical Research awarded Mr Wilkinson a prestigious Research Training Fellowship grant in 2011to fund his two-year study into a new treatment for Hirschsprung’s disease. This potentially life-threatening bowel disorder affects more than 160 babies each year in the UK. These babies are born with an abnormal section of bowel that does not contain nerves and cannot push digested food along.

Most babies with Hirschsprung’s become ill within the first couple of weeks of life with vomiting and swelling of the abdomen, which can develop into life-threatening bowel obstruction.  Without treatment the condition is usually fatal, but with early specialist care and surgery the majority of babies survive.  However, despite advances in surgical techniques most children will go on to experience life-long difficulties, and twenty per cent of teenagers report frequent problems with distressing and disabling faecal incontinence. [SEE CASE STUDY BELOW]

Mr Wilkinson believes that one day it may be possible to transplant a baby’s own stem cells into the bowel wall, to re-grow the missing nerve supply and improve the function of the bowel. He says, “It is a huge privilege to be working on this project, along with a group of dedicated experts. It makes me feel humble to know that our work, made possible by Action Medical Research, could improve the quality of life of children with Hirschsprung’s disease.

“I am proud to be running for Action and raising funds for the children’s charity who contributed to the development of the polio vaccine and to the use of ultrasound scanning in pregnancy. Their continued work helps many thousands of sick babies and children.”

Medical research can save and change children’s lives. Yet surprisingly, medical research into conditions that devastate children’s lives is poorly funded. The charity is currently funding research into conditions including Down syndrome, premature birth, epilepsy, meningitis and rare diseases.

Entry into the BUPA Great North Run is now closed but Action Medical Research can get you in. And if you already have a place the charity would love to have you on their team. Email or phone 01403 210406 for more information.

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High-res pics of David can be downloaded from this link:

High-res pics of Jacob can be downloaded from these links:

CASE STUDY: JACOB’S STORY (based in Wigan)
Jacob Jones is a typical outgoing five-year-old boy with a great sense of humour. He loves Lego, cars, trains and being outdoors, and hates eating most vegetables or having his face washed. But sadly Jacob was born with a serious bowel disorder called Hirschsprung’s disease.

In his short life so far, he has had almost 20 operations, five of these being major surgery. He now lives with a new opening on his tummy for his faeces to be collected into a bag.

Jacob was only a tiny baby of two days old when doctors realised there was something wrong.

“It was devastating,” Jacob’s mum Sara explains. “I will never forget being woken by the midwife during the night. From there everything went so quickly.” Over the coming weeks he was diagnosed with a multitude of bowel abnormalities and spent six weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit.

The family are hugely supportive of research being carried out by surgeon David Wilkinson at the University of Liverpool, funded by Action Medical Research. He believes that one day it may be possible to transplant a baby’s own stem cells into the bowel wall, to re-grow the missing nerve supply and improve the function of the bowel.

Sara says: “As a family we have been on such a journey. Jacob has been so incredibly poorly, but has overcome every obstacle this disease has put in his way. My husband Gareth and I will always know that by donating samples from Jacob’s bowel, it could in some small way help to save another family going through the turmoil ours has.”

For further press information on Action Medical Research and the events they run please contact:

Toni Slater, Communications Manager
T: 01403 327478

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Action Medical Research is a UK-wide charity saving and changing children’s lives through medical research. We want to make a difference in:

  • tackling premature birth and treating sick and vulnerable babies
  • helping children affected by disability, disabling conditions and infections
  • targeting rare diseases that together severely affect many forgotten children.

Just one breakthrough, however small, can mean the world.

Charity reg.nos 208701 and SC039284.

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