'There is always hope' say Yorkshire family after baby's rare neck tumour battle

A family who found hope in the darkest of places as their newborn son battled a rare tumour have honoured an army of angels who held them up in their hour of greatest need.

Ralph Gibbs, who will be nine months old this week, is now a thriving and happy boy after undergoing treatment for a rare benign tumour of blood vessels.

Paul and Natasha Gibbs' son Ralph, of Baildon, was born in June last year with an incredibly rare and life-threatening tumour on his neck, spending eight weeks in intensive care.

Now as Ralph recovers at home, his parents have pledged a year of fundraising to give back to The Sick Children's Trust which helped them to stay by his side.

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"It was an absolutely terrifying time," said mother Mrs Gibbs. "You almost get used to being in a constant state of fear and anxiety, with a child in intensive care.

Paul, Natasha and Ralph Gibbs. The family, from Baildon, have pledged a year of fundraising for the Sick Children's Trust after the charity supported them through a lengthy stay in hospital.

"We wanted to be there, for every single second we possibly could."

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The fear for the family had begun the moment Ralph was born, his father says, with what initially looked like a bruise on his neck.

It was enough to concern doctors at Bradford Royal Infirmary, and Ralph was referred to specialist care at Leeds Children's Hospital.

Baby Ralph Gibbs, pictured in hospital after he was born with an incredibly rare and life-threatening tumour on his neck.

Within a day of returning home, his condition had dramatically worsened. He was struggling to breathe, to feed, and needed emergency intubation on intensive care.

When he was taken off the ventilator, he would struggle on his own as the growth was now the size of an orange, bleeding into his airway.

"He turned blue, they had to resuscitate him in front of us," said Mr Gibbs, 38, who is an assistant headteacher at Swain House Primary School in Bradford.

"We were warned it would be traumatic, that they would have to take it hour by hour. He's always been a fighter. He pulled through."

Newborn Ralph Gibbs, from Baildon, was born with a lump on his neck which turned out to be a rare benign tumour of blood vessels.

Ralph's diagnosis is of a kaposiform hemangioendothelioma - a benign tumour that cannot spread but is locally aggressive, and is made up of a malformation of blood vessels.

It's so rare doctors had to consult with Great Ormond Street and Boston Children's Hospital to identify a treatment plan, and there are only around 50 cases a year worldwide.

"At the time, we didn't know what it was, or if it could be treated," said Mrs Gibbs, 31, a lead teacher at Parkside School in Cullingworth.

"Every day, it seemed, there was something to make matters worse."

Sick Children's Trust

Through Ralph's eight-week stay in hospital, the family were given a free place to stay at Eckersley House through the Sick Children's Trust.

It meant they could stay at LGI rather than travel nearly an hour each way from home in Baildon.

"With the thought of losing him, we couldn't bear to go home," says Mr Gibbs. "It meant we could create a new normal. And it was an incredible comfort to know we weren't alone.

"We will be forever indebted to LGI," he adds. "We know, without doctors' quick actions, Ralph wouldn't be here and we can never repay that debt."

Ralph is now home, on medication to shrink the tumour, and with hopes to have his tracheostomy reversed in coming months. He is happy and thriving, his family says.

And to thank the Sick Children's Trust, in securing a support network they hadn't known existed until they needed it, the Gibbs are hosting a year of fundraising.

The charity had been vital when they needed it, they say, and now they cannot simply walk away. Family, friends, as well as students and staff at their respective schools are contributing, through bake sales and half marathons, and donations in lieu of gifts.

"Ralph is incredibly happy, he's the happiest baby you could ever come across," said Mrs Gibbs.

"It's about never giving up hope when you feel that everything is lost. And that as bad as things could possibly be, you can always find hope."

Eckersley House is fully funded through the Sick Children’s Trust, at £30 for a family for a night. To find out more about the family's pledge visit their JustGiving page by searching Ralph Gibbs.