The mother of a one-year-old girl who died after contracting chicken pox is walking 50 miles to London to help raise funds to treat other critically injured children.
Natalie Bradburn, 40, will undertake the sponsored walk on Saturday [March 26] from Reading to St Mary’s hospital, Paddington, repeating her daughter Grace’s last journey as doctors fought in vain to save her life.
Today, Thursday, would have been Grace’s 10th birthday and Mrs Bradburn will raise at least £20,000 towards the £2 million appeal, backed by the Duchess of Cambridge, to expand the paediatric intensive care unit at St Mary’s.
“It’s a bit of a milestone, turning 10,” Mrs Bradburn told the Standard. “I wanted to do something special that is specific to her. It was the last journey she did.
“This walk is a tribute to my daughter but also a chance to say thank you to the committed team of medics who were prepared to use a multitude of innovative treatments to give Grace the best chance of recovery.”
Grace was admitted to the Royal Berkshire hospital in Reading on March 24, 2007 – her first birthday – after a serious reaction to chicken pox she had contracted about a week earlier.
After a week in the high dependency unit, she was transferred to the children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s, where for three-and-a-half weeks doctors tried desperately to save her life. She died on April 24.
Tests revealed that Grace had a rare genetic defect that meant her immune system was unable to fight the chicken pox virus. She was found to be missing a large piece of Chromosome 7, which includes a gene that controls a critical part of the immune system.
The sequencing of Grace’s genome, which was funded by the hospital’s charity Cosmic, revealed that the defect was not shared by her elder brother Ollie, now 12, nor was there a risk if she had further children.
“I think we would have struggled more, and we would have worried more, if we didn’t know why [Grace died],” Mrs Bradburn, a school volunteer, said. She and husband Stuart went on to have two more sons. Mr Bradburn and Ollie, plus other family and friends, will join her on the walk.
The eight-bed unit at St Mary’s treats 400 children a year but last year had to turn away 230 because of a lack of space. The appeal, which has raised about £700,000 to date, aims to expand the cramped unit to 15 beds and provide space for parents to be with their sick children.
Dr Simon Nadel, consultant and clinical lead, said: “We are grateful to Natalie for taking on this challenge in support of the More Smiles Appeal.
“It is always incredibly sad when a child dies, but by walking in Grace’s memory, Natalie is raising money to give many more children the chance of getting the specialist treatment they need to get better.”
Mrs Bradburn’s Virgin Money fundraising page is here.