Seaham Trinity Primary School Year 6 pupil Christopher Owen, 11, was a happy healthy boy until 2019 when he developed Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP) disease.
While for most children this leads to the development of a rash, in a small percentage of cases it can lead to kidney problems.
Unfortunately for Christopher he was one of the unlucky one percent in which the disease attacked his kidneys to such an extent he now needs daily dialysis and is awaiting a suitable donor.
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After hearing of his pupil’s plight, headteacher Ray Bushby, who decided to retire at the end of the school year, “went out of his was way” to help Christopher and mum, Pam Howarth.
Pam, 37, said: “The help I’ve had off the school and in particular Mr Bushby has been unreal. We are so grateful and we couldn’t have coped without his support.”
Christopher added: “He’s a really good headteacher and the school won’t be the same without him. He really makes me laugh and I’d give him 10 out of 10 as a teacher.”
The support afforded to the family was complicated by the onset of the Covid pandemic which meant Christopher, who was classed as vulnerable, was unable to attend lessons, even when schools reopened.
Pam said: “I was really worried about Christopher returning to school as he’s so vulnerable. Mr Bushby was so understanding and made sure he could access online learning and didn’t fall behind.
"During lockdown we were wary of going to public outside spaces and so Mr Bushby provided us with a key for the school’s play area to enable us as a family to have somewhere to go for exercise and fresh air after-school and on weekends.”
Support for the family continued after Christopher returned to school this year.
Pam added: “Chris was due to sit his SATs when he was taken into hospital with peritonitis. It meant he missed his exams but Mr Bushby arranged for him to be able to sit them with him when he returned to school.”
After hearing Christopher’s family had contacted the Echo to sing his praises, Mr Bushby said he was “just doing his job”.
He added: “Chris is the hero in all this. Chris is part of our school and as a school we will go out of our way to support any pupil who is experiencing difficulties.
"Chris is a very special little boy. Not only has he overcome his illness and the difficulties of Covid but he has also passed his SATs, so he is an absolute hero in our eyes.
"It’s really nice to hear parents appreciate the work we have done to support all of the children, and it makes me feel very proud that this is the legacy I’ve left behind.”
Friday (July 22) saw Mr Bushby deliver his final assembly after 14 years as headteacher at the school.
He said: “I’m really going to miss the children. I’m a headteacher who still likes to teach – it’s what I got into the business for.”
For Christopher and his family it’s now just a “matter of time waiting on the donor list”.