Thursday, 23 September 2021

Mother thanks hospital that saved son’s life 18 years ago

A MOTHER from Goring cut off her shoulder-length hair to raise money for the intensive care

A MOTHER from Goring cut off her shoulder-length hair to raise money for the intensive care ward that saved her son’s life as a toddler.

Student Toby Brown, 21, was three when he was struck down with pneumococcal meningitis and nearly died after he developed septicaemia, a form of bacterial blood poisoning.

Doctors at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading struggled to treat him so he was raced to a specialist children’s casualty unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.

The condition can be fatal and often results in amputation because blood rushes to the internal organs, depriving the body’s extremities of oxygen so they are irreversibly damaged.

However, thanks to the team’s swift intervention, Toby escaped with only hearing loss in one ear and temporary facial paralysis.

Now he is in the second year of studying for a law degree at Cambridge University, having attended Goring Primary School and then Abingdon School.

Toby and his mother Rose decided to raise money for the ward to mark his 21st birthday and have already made £4,000 through sponsored haircuts.

Mrs Brown, who lives in Springhill Road with her husband Tony, had been growing her locks for four years so they had reached almost 20 inches when she had them cut by a stylist at Forresters in Pangbourne. Toby had his head shaved in an act of solidarity.

The proceeds will go towards the Cosmic More Smiles Appeal to raise £2 million for the refurbishment of the Paddington ward and installation of seven extra beds.

The ward has just eight beds at the moment so must turn away more than 200 children every year.

Earlier this year, Toby’s older brother Jamie, 25, raised £1,300 by running in the Greater Manchester Marathon.

Recalling her son’s illness, Mrs Brown said: “Toby became ill terrifyingly quickly. He’d been at his childminder’s earlier in the day and was very upbeat but within 15 minutes he was feverish and being sick.

“The doctor said he should go to hospital as he’d had a milder bout of meningitis before. They did a lumbar puncture at the Royal Berkshire which confirmed it was the same thing.

“I thought it would just be a case of taking antibiotics again but a few days after admission it went horribly wrong. They had him on a ventilator and a crash team was working on him to keep him alive.

“They were trying to get intravenous lines into him but they were struggling so they called the St Mary’s team and he was rushed to London by ambulance with a police escort. We were very lucky they had the space for us.

“We wanted to do something to celebrate Toby turning 21. Despite his hearing loss, I’ve heard similar stories that have ended so much worse.

“It is such a worthwhile charity and I was horrified when I heard the ward has to turn children away.”

Mrs Brown sold her hair to a wig-maker in Banbury for £50, which she put towards her total.

She said: “It only weighed about six and a half ounces, which is surprisingly light considering how much time I spent growing it.

“My friends and family have been wonderfully supportive since I had it done. My husband was a bit shocked to begin with but he says he likes my new style now.”

Forresters donated the haircuts for free and has kept a collection box in the salon.

Mrs Brown works as a mentor at Heart of Business, a professional development network, and is a member of the Henley Business Partnership.

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