Charlie was born with a tiny windpipe and spent more than 90 nights in hospital before his first birthday.
The youngest of six children, little Charlie was born with Tracheomalacia: a rare respiratory condition in which the windpipe (trachea) is narrow and excessively floppy. A healthy or normal windpipe in an infant has an inner diameter of about five millimetres. Charlie’s airway was around two millimetres.
His condition is akin to suffocating, or drowning, all the time – and every breath is a real struggle. Charlie (or ‘Charlie Boy’ as his doting mum, Min, calls him) is on oxygen 24 hours a day, and because of the danger that even the slightest bit of food could irritate his fragile windpipe, he’s fed through a tube. Tragically, life-threatening emergencies are all too common for Charlie. Even a common cold has potentially fatal implications for this little fellow.
As his Respiratory Specialist, Associate Professor Paul Francis, explains: “Charlie is not the average child with respiratory complications – he is at the extreme end.”
"While Charlie is unique, research into respiratory viruses and their impact on airways will have a direct spin off and benefits for Charlie...as special as he is."
Thanks to another medical emergency in January (Charlie contracted the respiratory virus RSV) he spent his first birthday in hospital.
Min estimates that Charlie spent around 90 nights in hospital in his first year. Nurses at the Royal Children’s Hospital have spent a lot of time with the whole family, teaching them about Charlie’s condition and training them in CPR and suctioning.
“The hospital’s like our second home,” says Min. “The staff...they’re truly amazing, and I’m so grateful to the Foundation for the Wonder Factory: it keeps the other kids occupied during our many visits to the hospital.”
While Charlie’s respiratory complications are extreme, the majority of children will experience respiratory problems in their early years. (The average Australian infant will suffer between 4-6 respiratory infections in their first year of life, and by the age of two, a staggering 95% of all children will have had a respiratory illness.)
Every child deserves to breathe freely, and researchers at the Royal Children’s Hospital are conducting ground-breaking studies into childhood respiratory illnesses. So urgent is the need to advance this research that the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation has committed to invest more than $5,000,000 over the next five years to fund the Hospital’s Respiratory Research.
But we can only do that with your help. Your support will help to fund paediatric research into illnesses such as asthma, cystic fibrosis and potentially life-threatening respiratory viruses.
Together, we can work wonders for little Charlie and sick kids like him!
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