A cuddle at last for boy who lived in a bubble

A three-year-old boy who was forced to live in a sterile bubble because of a rare illness has been cured by doctors in a revolutionary bone marrow transplant operation.

Jack Wheatley's condition meant that he could not be cuddled by his parents because his body's immune system could not combat even the most basic ofgerms. The three-year-old was diagnosed as suffering from Hyper IGM, an inherited immuno- deficiency condition, when he was six months old. Since then, he has had to live in a sterile tent into which was pumped sterile air.

Around his bed at Newcastle General Hospital was a red line beyond which his parents, Jeanette and Stuart, and any other visitors, could not pass. If they wanted to hold or cuddle their son, they had to be scrubbed down first by medical staff.

Jack underwent a bone marrow transplant to try to combat the illness, and doctors say that it is the first time in Europe that an unrelated donor has been successfully used.

Mrs Wheatley said: "Two weeks ago I hugged and kissed him for the first time in six months and it was wonderful. We are looking forward to getting home for Christmas ... we have been given the best present ever."

Jack's older brother, Ryan, 11, also suffers from the condition but Jack had shown no signs of it until he was six months old. Doctors are hoping they can perform a similar operation on Ryan.

"After the problems with Ryan suffering from Hyper IGM we just thought `oh no here we go again'," said Mrs Wheatley. "Normal life just came to an end."

The disease, which only affects boys, is rare, with only about 30 to 40 cases in the UK. It leaves the body's immune system unable to kill germs properly and the body susceptible to infections.

Doctors at King's College Hospital, London, have successfully performed a liver transplant on a baby just five days old. The baby, thought to be the world's youngest recipient of a transplanted liver, will be named by the hospital today. The hospital has performed 13 liver transplants on babies under the age of three months.

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