EVERYTHING little Logan Wilkieson touches has to be sterilised beforehand to stop him picking up infections.
The seven-and-a-half-month old baby has spent the past month living in a bubble of clean air in a special ward at Newcastle General Infirmary.
He has been diagnosed with the rare condition Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, which affects his immune system and means any infection he picks up could be deadly.
And it has affected the lives of his whole family.
His mother, Ruth Lawrie, has given up her rented house in Horwich to live in a specially provided flat near her son.
Logan’s father, Gareth Wilkieson, aged 22, sleeps at his parents’ house or with friends while continuing his job of fitting shutter doors and travels to Newcastle at weekends.
But the family have not let the situation get them down. Despite having little contact with people and not being allowed out of his 8ft square “sterile bubble”, Logan is cheerful and becoming stronger by the day.
On Monday, he will begin 12 days of chemotherapy, followed by a stem cell transplant through a blood infusion which will give him an 85 per cent chance of survival.
Logan was born two weeks overdue via Caesarean Section, but otherwise there did not initially appear to be any difficulties.
Ruth, aged 20, said: “He started with a cough and was given an inhaler and medicine and it seemed to be clearing.
“Then he ended up in the Royal Bolton Hospital with really bad sickness and diarrhoea, and when they ran the blood tests they came up with Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which I had never heard of.”
Within a couple of days Ruth and Gareth were given the news that Logan had a condition that affected one in 100,000 babies and was being transferred to a specialist unit in Newcastle, one of just two in the country.
Ruth packed and, apart from one visit home to collect clothes and supplies, has been living in a flat near the hospital for the past month.
It is a lonely existence, but Ruth is delighted with the help she has received from family and friends.
“I speak to Gareth, my mum Margaret, and my friend Kim Walls, but most people just ring Gareth because my phone is off most of the day as I am in here from about 9.30 in the morning until 8 at night,” she said.
Home to Logan at the moment is his small cot with a hood over it, but he has benefited dramatically from his time in the “bubble unit”.
Ruth said: “They have treated him for his chest infection and he also had thrush, but this cleared, as did his skin infection.
“He has kept cheerful and tries to stand up, but there’s not much room for him.
“He can have toys but they have to be constantly washed and sterilised. Every time I go in to see him he has thrown them out of his cot and they have to be picked up and properly cleaned before he can be given them back.
“He hasn’t minded it at all, though. He is full of smiles and laughs at everything. When someone walks into the room he sits up, wobbles, falls over and knocks himself on the cot-side and just laughs.”
While Logan remains cheerful, for Ruth and Gareth the tension and anxiety are increasing.
“They have kept on top of everything here and he is starting his chemotherapy on Monday. That will finish the Sunday after and he will then have a day of rest and have his transplant on the Tuesday, which we are very nervous about.
“He is quite a big baby and he is strong now, but the transplant may set him back and he might walk late, but he should eventually catch up,” Ruth said.
If the transplant goes well – which doctors say it should – Logan should eventually make a complete recovery and be able to live a normal life, though his post-operation hospital recovery time is likely to be about six months.
When Logan reaches a certain point of recovery, he will be taken to a halfway house – where he will be allowed outside in a buggy fitted with a protective hood – before heading home, which highlights another obstaxle.
“We have had to give up our private rented accommodation as I am up here all the time and Gareth is up here at weekends and away a couple of nights a week with his job.
“We have to get another house sorted. We were paying out £500 a month, but we can’t do that now.
“He could be home by March so we need to get somewhere sorted. At least in the halfway house he will be able to go out and see things, which he can’t here, but I don’t want him staying there any longer than he has to just because we are waiting for a council house.
“We want a place where we can put laminate flooring in, so it can be swept rather than vacuumed and we need to be able to paint everything so it is wipeable and can be kept clean, which will reduce any risk to Logan.
“He will still be vulnerable to infection when he comes out and he will not be able to be around large groups of people or pets for a few months.
“He will have to go for blood tests every so often just to make sure the bone marrow that was transplanted is growing, but eventually he should be able to live a completely normal life.”
One thing that may have to be put on hold is the bike Ruth and Gareth were planning to buy Logan for Christmas.
“Because he can’t be around people we won’t be able to have a first birthday party for him on March 21, but we will have one in the late summer to make up for it.”
Ruth said the experience would not put her off having another baby as tests would now automatically be carried out to identify the condition and, if it did exist, treatment would start immediately.
Gill Johnston, fundraising manager for The Bubble Foundation, said chances of survival for Logan are extremely high, with a 90 per cent success rate last year.
She said: “The bone marrow comes in a blood bag and goes through an infusion into the baby. The operation is an hour or a couple of hours at most.”
Follow Logan’s progress online
Logan’s progress is being detailed in a blog created by Ruth’s sister, Katie.It is available at www.littlelogansblog.blogspot.com.
1:05pm Saturday 10th November 2007
By Andrew Mosley
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