Sunderland couple raise £70k for specialist X-ray machine at Sunderland Hospital neonatal unit

Consultant Dr Imran Ahmed, neonatal intensive care unit ward manager Emily Cameron, consultant majd Abu-Harb and reporting radiographer Brittany Burgess with the traditional X-ray machine and the new machine. Credit: South Tyneside And Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

A Sunderland couple whose daughter was diagnosed with two holes in her heart have raised £70,000 for a specialist X-ray using state-of-the-art technology.

The £70,000 X-ray machine is in use at Sunderland Hospital's neonatal unit.

Sergio Petrucci, 46, and Emma Petrucci, 40, raised the money after their daughter Luna was diagnosed with two holes in her heart during a check-up following her birth at the hospital's maternity unit.

As a way of giving back to the NHS, the couple set up the Red Sky Foundation and have since campaigned for the new state of the art X-ray technology.

The new device allows radiographers to take high quality X-rays using digital radiography rather than computed radiography.

Enzo, Emma, Luna and Sergio Petrucci. Credit: South Tyneside And Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

It was bought following a conversation with Dr Abu-Harb from Sunderland Hospital, after he helped to diagnose Luna's condition. The couple remained in touch with him following Luna’s first checks.

Mr Petrucci said: “When the paediatrician came around and listened to Luna’s heart, they could hear an echo, so they did a scan and Dr Abu-Harb picked up holes in her heart.

“It was hoped they would heal themselves, but during routine check-ups, we were told by cardiologists they were really worried about her and they said her condition was a ticking time bomb."

Luna Petrucci following her heart operation. Credit: South Tyneside And Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

Five days before her second birthday in 2015, Luna was rushed to the Freeman Hospital for surgery.

Mr Petrucci added: “The charity grew from that experience and we contacted Dr Abu-Harb to ask how we could help and he suggested this machine.

“He said he would love one of these to help the babies in the unit, and so we said yes, we asked how much it would be and then got to work on the fundraising.

“I’m immensely proud we’ve been able to do this for the unit. It’s something we’ve wanted to see happen and we hope it helps other children from South Tyneside and Sunderland like Luna so they can get the treatment they need."

A traditional mobile X-ray machine on the left, with the new Fujifilm FDR nano on the right. Credit: South Tyneside And Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

Sunderland Royal Hospital has become one of the first in the Europe to use the technology which helps to X-ray babies and deliver images back to a radiographer in as little as two seconds. This allows for swift diagnosis and treatment.

The quieter, lighter and smaller system can be moved into places a traditional mobile X-ray machine can struggle to reach.

The foundation began collecting the cash as its first task after it was given charitable status in March 2020. It managed to hit the target despite the challenges brought on by lockdown.

Since launching the couple and their charity have raised more than £700,000 to fund life-saving equipment, training and education.

Consultant Neonatologist Imran Ahmed, the clinical lead for the unit, said: “It can be a worrying time for families when their baby is in need our care and the start of treatment is very important as we do everything we can to help our patients thrive.

“We’re pleased to become one of the first in the Europe to have this equipment. Seeing it in action is fantastic and we know it will help us for many years to come.”

Radiology Operational Manager Dee Sixsmith added: “This machine makes it so much easier for our team to work, it’s much lighter and smaller to manoeuvre and we know it’ll help us as we work alongside our colleagues to care for our youngest patients.”

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