Worksop: Champion runner picks up her pace again thanks to life-saving treatment at The Children’s Hospital

Lucy Harrop fell ill with a chest infection two years ago, but after the antibiotics ran out and her condition continued to deteriorate, her family needed answers
Lucy Harrop fell ill with a chest infection two years ago, but after the antibiotics ran out and her condition continued to deteriorate, her family needed answers

A champion runner from Worksop who fell behind after developing a serious lung disease is now picking up pace again after being treated at The Children’s Hospital in Sheffield.

The family of Lucy Harrop, 14, are set to raise funds for The Children’s Hospital Charity to thank the hospital for her treatment.

Two years ago, Lucy fell ill with a chest infection and was prescribed antibiotics by her local GP. But after the antibiotics ran out and her condition continued to deteriorate, her family needed answers.

Mum, Michelle, said: “She was entering races and it was like she was running through sand. She was just dropping further and further back and couldn’t keep up.”

“We knew something was wrong, but we kept being told it was a chest infection and there was nothing more that could be done. I felt so frustrated, not knowing why she was suffering so much and not being able to do anything to help.”

Lucy, who lives with her family in Worksop, was eventually referred to a respiratory specialist at The Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with bronchiectasis – a condition in which the lungs’ airways are abnormally stretched by mucus blockage, leading to build up and infection.

“It was amazing to just get a diagnosis,” added Michelle, “because it means she can get the help that she needs.”

“This condition is for life, but we can keep her lungs free from infection with treatment.”

Lucy takes tablets daily to reduce the mucus build-up, uses a nebuliser and takes intravenous antibiotics every three months. Thanks to this treatment, her condition has now improved so much that she is now running again.

She was also the first person in the world to have a hyperpolarised gas MRI scan as part of her clinical treatment. Developed by imaging scientists at the POLARIS pulmonary imaging research group at the University of Sheffield, these scans involve inhaling small volumes of inert gas before having an MRI scan, to reveal a picture of the ventilation of the lungs in much more detail than that produced by an x-ray or CT scan, and without the radiation.

Jim Wild, Professor of Magnetic Resonance Physics at the University of Sheffield, said: “This way of testing the lungs gives much more detailed information on early stage lung problems than other imaging techniques”

“We have used this scanning method in clinical research trials in the past, but this was the first time in the world it has been used in clinical practice. I am really excited to see that the scans are now making a difference to the treatment of patients like Lucy.”

Dad, Richard said: “The improvements to her health have been amazing. This time last year she was so poorly. She had no energy, her grades slipped – she would just go to sleep as soon as she got home from school. Now Lucy is running really well again. She may not ever be top class like she was, but she is getting back into it – and it is actually helping her condition.”

Dr Kelechi Ugonna, Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine added: “Her condition is a chronic chest problem characterised by repeated infections and thick secretion build up which can have a real effect on quality of life.

The main stays of treatment are antibiotics to treat infection, inhaled treatments to thin secretions and chest physiotherapy to help clear the secretions. We have been really pleased with Lucy’s improvement, and we hope she continues to improve over the coming months and years.”

The family are now hoping to raise money for The Children’s Hospital Charity by asking for donations in lieu of presents at Richard’s 50th birthday party.

The money will go to the charity’s Make it Better appeal, which needs to raise £10m to transform The Children’s Hospital into a world-class facility to match the existing world-class care.

For more information, visit www.tchc.org.uk