Above: Finlay and Luca model their Great North Children’s Hospital T-shirts
During his short life, two-year-old Luca Swinbanks from South Shields has experienced a number of serious health issues requiring treatment.
His brother Finlay, aged six and close family member, Theo, aged four, took on the Mini Great North Run last weekend (11th September) for the Great North Children’s Hospital Foundation, part of Newcastle Hospitals Charity, to say thank you for the care he is receiving.
Born at full term in 2019, Luca weighed just five pounds and parents Caitlin Swinbanks and Chris Fudge, were told he had stopped growing in the womb, a condition called intrauterine growth restriction.
Well enough to come home, his parents then discovered an additional issue when he was taken to their local post-natal clinic to be weighed.
Caitlin explains: “When Luca was born, he had a tiny little body and weighed just five pounds. Basically, we were told his head and brain had continued to develop as normal but his body had stayed behind.
“He came home with us but I had some concerns about his colouring and when I took him to the clinic, they also thought his skin was blue and that needed looking at more closely.”
Only 16-weeks-old at this point, Luca was referred to Dr Matthew Thomas, a Consultant Paediatrician in respiratory medicine at the Great North Children’s Hospital, and he confirmed Luca was suffering from a very rare condition called pharyngomalacia, which was affecting his ability to breathe.
At five months, Luca was fitted with a nasogastric (NG) tube into his stomach via his nose for feeding and then later had a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, a procedure in which a flexible feeding tube is placed through the abdominal wall and into the stomach, otherwise known as having a PEG fitted. The PEG allows nutrition to go directly into the stomach, bypassing the mouth and oesophagus.
Above: Luca and his PEG
Caitlin adds: “With Luca being so young and so poorly, it’s been an incredibly stressful time for all his family. And we know he has an awful lot more medical treatment ahead of him. “He’s non verbal and has suspected autism and in January he fractured his skull jumping off a chair. It’s all been so complicated they’ve had to tear up the usual rule book for treatment. The pharyngomalacia alone was so rare that, when he was diagnosed, we had lots of students coming by to see him and learn from him. His doctor told us it was only the second time he had ever seen it.
“But all the way through, the care Luca’s had and continues to receive at the Great North Children’s Hospital has been amazing. Without it, he wouldn’t be here now. All the family are grateful, including Finlay and Theo.
“Theo’s the son of my former partner and he’s Finlay’s brother. We’re a close family and, even though Finlay and Theo are only young themselves, they understand Luca’s needed lots of help and wanted to do something to say thank you. We’re all very proud of them!”
On 11 September, Finlay and Theo Symington completed the Mini Great North Run, a beautiful 1.5km route around Newcastle’s Quayside.
The pair were joined by thousands of other youngsters on the Mini and Junior Great North Run, which this year had have a ‘rolling start’ to help keep runners safe.
Sonia Graham, Fundraising Manager for Newcastle Hospitals Charity, says: “The Mini and Junior Great North Runs are often the first taste of an organised running event that many youngsters get.
“The atmosphere on the day is always fantastic and behind those excited young faces there are often stories of courage, like Luca’s, and that makes the whole day very special indeed.
“It’s no wonder Finlay and Theo’s families are so proud of them!”
How to Support the Boys
To make a donation to Finlay and Theo’s fundraising, click here.
Newcastle Hospitals Charity supports projects that help to improve the health and wellbeing of patients, staff and the wider community through compassionate and innovative healthcare, education and research.
Above: Finlay and Theo get ready to race