The brave Sunderland boy who faces a six-month battle for health each winter

A grateful Sunderland mum has told how her battling son has had the best winter of his young life – instead of fighting off a string of chest infections.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 9th January 2020, 12:50 pm
Gray with mum Danielle and dad Kris at the start of 2019.
Gray with mum Danielle and dad Kris at the start of 2019.

Gray Crone has an extremely rare condition which means he is prone to spending winters facing a constant health battle.

Gray, now two years old and from Red House in Sunderland, has a condition so rare that only one in 3,500 children are diagnosed with it.

He has tranche-oesophageal fistula (TOF), a condition where part of the oesophagus is joined to the windpipe.

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The Best of Wearside Awards.

Infants who have it find it difficult to swallow, causing frothy, white bubbles in the mouth, coughing or choking when feeding and even vomiting.

In Gray’s case, every winter is an uphill battle because he picks up so many bugs.

But proud mum Danielle Crone, 34, said: “He has had his best winter yet and he has only had one chest infection.”

Doctors say that Gray’s health is improving because he is on his feet more as her gets older, and his lungs are being used more.

Gray and the other Child of Courage winners pictured at the 2019 Best of Wearside Awards.

Danielle said: “It is the most stress free year we have had.

There’s been another boost for the two-year-old as he won a Best of Wearside Child of Courage Award earlier this year.

Danielle looked back on an amazing night and said: “It was emotional from start to finish. Obviously, Gray winning was lovely but everyone there had a purpose.

“Everyone who won and everyone who was nominated was a winner and they were raising awareness about a lot of things.”

When he was born in July 2017, Gray was a healthy 8lbs-plus but Danielle soon noticed there was a problem.

While he was being fed, he was ‘quite frothy and bringing up mucus’, she said.

Then, he went blue and had to be taken for tests at Sunderland Royal Hospital. "That’s when he was sent through straight away to the RVI in Newcastle in an ambulance, " said Danielle last summer.

After being diagnosed with the condition, Gray underwent an operation at just three days old in which surgeons went in through his back to remove part of his oesophagus, which was then a dead muscle due to his condition and something which left him unable to swallow properly.

The oesophagus had to be unjoined from the windpipe and then connected to Gray’s stomach.

Following the op, Gray was put in intensive care for a week, but since then he has continued to make good progress.

His story touched the hearts of the Best of Wearside Awards judges and now the search is on for this year’s entries.

Danielle urged people to nominate worthy causes and added: “I am 100 per cent behind it. These people are doing good things and raising awareness and people should nominate.”

This year’s competition has backing from headline sponsor BGL, partner sponsor Utility Alliance, partner sponsor Gentoo, and category sponsor Marelli.

We thank them all for getting on board, and now comes your turn to get involved.

We hope you will inundate us with entries and make the job of the judges that much harder.

Take a look at the categories, read the entry instructions, and your favourite cause will be a step closer to hopefully winning a Best of Wearside title.


l Community Group of the Year.

l Student of the Year.

l Green Champion of the Year.

l Child of Courage.

l Child of Achievement.

l Young Voice of Wearside.

l Fundraiser of the Year.

l Volunteer of the Year.

l Sporting Achievement of the Year.

l Community Champion Award.


To nominate, just send your name, address and telephone number, as well as your email address, if applicable. Remember to include the category you are putting your nominated cause into.

Also send the name of the person you wish to nominate, along with their address, telephone number and email (if known).

Send all of that to Lynn Wild by no later than March 2. Judging of all the entries will be held that same week with the finale at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday, April 1.

There are three ways to nominate.

l Email those entries to [email protected]

l Post them to Lynn Wild, North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), Wearfield Enterprise Park East, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, SR5 2TA.

l Visit the website at