£20,000 appeal for operation to transform life of teenager Jacob Brown launched with backing from Bradley Lowery Foundation
The Bradley Lowery Foundation is backing a £20,000 appeal for a life-changing operation for a teenager with a chronic condition which leaves him virtually house-bound.
Jacob, from Houghton, suffers from Pectus Excavatum, a condition in which the cartilage in the rib cage forces the breastbone inwards, putting pressure on the internal organs – especially the heart.
It leaves Jacob unable to join in activities with sisters Hollie and Eve Ferguson, 19 and 17, and brothers Isaac, Benjamin, and Joel Brown, 13, 11 and seven respectively.
“I can’t do exercise,” he said. “I can’t do anything that involves running or heavy lifting.
"My chest starts aching very quickly and if I keep going, it just hurts worse and worse until I have to stop. It feels like someone is putting lots and lots of pressure on me.”
Jacob, who is home-schooled and attends East Durham College two days a week, is unable to take part in an strenuous activity: “I can’t play tag, because I always get caught,” he said.
Parents Rachel and George Ferguson have noticed a sharp deterioration in Jacob’s condition in recent weeks: “It has affected him more and more over the last year,” said Rachel.
"He just sleeps all the time – it is really starting to impact his quality of life day-to-day and I can’t see how that will get better until he gets his chest straightened out.”
It was originally hoped raising £10,000 would allow Middlesbrough’s James Cook Hospital to perform the surgery – but Jacob’s age means he will need to travel to London.
Thoracic surgeon Joel Dunning said Pectus Excavatum was a relatively common condition but was more pronounced in some patients – such as Jacob – than others. "In some cases, it stops your heart from pumping properly,” he said. We don’t think it shortens people’s lives but it can affect their life quality considerably.”
Surgery to cure Jacob’s condition by placing a series of metal bars in his ribs which will push the sternum outwards over time was removed from the list of approved NHS operations in England three years ago as a cost-cutting measure.
It was an accident of birth which meant Jacob was unable to have his surgery on the NHS, said Mr Dunning: “If he was living 40 miles north of here, he could have the operation in a few weeks.”
He and his colleagues were keen to see the procedure made available again: “Doctors do understand – we treat the patients and see the benefits,” he said. “I have had lots of patients who have benefited massively from this.”
The Bradley Lowery Foundation was set up following the death of six-year-old Bradley in July 2017, to support families with fundraising for treatment or equipment not available on the NHS.
Bradley’s mum Gemma Lowery, 39, hopes the charity’s profile will help get surgery approved for the NHS again: “We are fundraising for Jacob but the main priority is to get this procedure put back on the NHS to help others,”she said.
To support the campaign and donate, visit ‘Jacob Brown needs your help’ on Facebook.