14 Jul 2015

OU/BBC: Documentary on Great Ormond Street Hospital returns for a third series

Bone marrow transplant brothers Herb and Rufus

Bone marrow transplant brothers Herb and Rufus

BBC Two’s BAFTA-nominated documentary, Great Ormond Street, is set to continue its unprecedented access into the world-renowned children’s hospital with a third series starting on Tuesday 14 July. It will once again follow doctors and families as they navigate life-changing decisions in treating the country’s most poorly children.

The new three-part series, produced in partnership with The Open University, will focus on children with rare diseases, respiratory and neurological conditions, as clinicians and nurses at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) push the boundaries of paediatric medicine to try and save the lives of their young patients where conventional treatments have failed.

GOSH is a world leading paediatric centre for the treatment of rare diseases, and the first episode, Fix My Genes, focuses on three young patients who undergo a mixture of bone marrow transplantation and gene therapy to treat their rare conditions. Five-year-old Herb, who has a rare immune condition called Nemo syndrome, prepares to undergo a bone marrow transplant from his brother, Rufus. Meanwhile nine-year-old Keano, who suffers from a white blood cell deficiency, has struggled to find a matching bone marrow donor because of his mixed-race heritage and faces the prospect of undergoing a mismatched transplant. And 11-year-old Tiegan is about to become the oldest child in the world with severe combined immunodeficiency to embark on a gene therapy trial.

Astonishingly, while 50 years ago the majority of children with immune deficiencies like Herb, Keano and Tiegan would have died, about 90% will now survive thanks to the clinical research and experimental treatments being pioneered at GOSH and other paediatric centres.

GOSH is also one of the largest children’s heart and lung transplant centres in Europe, and the second episode, Fight To Breathe, follows four children with serious respiratory conditions and their families as they make the difficult decision of whether to join the lung transplant list. Two years ago 14-year-old Jessica, who has cystic fibrosis, decided not to join the transplant list as she didn’t feel ready. However as her condition deteriorates, she revisits the prospect of a transplant. Meanwhile nine-year-old Charlie, who also has cystic fibrosis and is preparing for a transplant, has a long list of questions for his doctor, including how long the donor lungs will last. A transplant could offer the four children a vital second chance at life, but a shortage of donors means the average wait for a lung transplant is a year, and 25% of patients will die whilst they are waiting.

The final episode, Mend My Brain, looks at GOSH’s neurosurgery team and the difficult decision-making and intricate surgery facing patients with a variety of neurological conditions. The episode shows a delicate brain procedure, never before captured on film, for a rare neurovascular condition called vein of Galen malformation, as well as neurosurgery to remove a brain stem tumour from seven-year-old Trinity. And 15-year-old Jack, who suffers from severe epilepsy, must weigh up the pros and cons of a radical operation that could reduce his seizures – but might also affect his enjoyment of his favourite hobby, karate.

Dr Joan Simons, Assistant Head of Health and Social Care, The Open University, said: “This compelling series highlights the many challenges faced by the dedicated and skilled staff of Great Ormond Street Hospital, as they care for children with rare and complex conditions. It provides unprecedented insight into the dilemmas faced by parents in the process of providing consent for complex procedures on their children, whist knowing the risks involved. It also shows the impact these cutting edge procedures have on the lives of the children involved and their families. “

Kate Townsend, Executive Producer for the BBC, said:

“The Great Ormond Street series continues in its compelling tone to explore complex dilemmas born from cutting edge medicine. In this latest series, some of the children are particularly involved in the decision making process.”

Professor Bobby Gaspar, Consultant in Paediatric Immunology at GOSH, said:

“Difficult decisions are part of daily life at Great Ormond Street. This documentary offers a rare insight into what it is like for us as clinicians and researchers, as well as for our families and patients, as we weigh up what is right for each child and the amount of risk we are willing to take to give that child a chance of life, or a better quality of life.

“In a lot of cases we are treating children who have already run out of conventional treatment options. So our clinical research and experimental treatments often represent the very last chance for a child to get better – and the results can sometimes be extraordinary.”

Great Ormond Street is made by Films of Record for BBC Two and is made in partnership with The Open University.

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