'It's only going to get worse': Campaign to raise £10,000 surgery for teenager struggling to breathe

Hollie Ferguson, 19, is trying to raise £10,000 so her brother Jacob Brown can have surgery to stop his ribs from compressing his organs. Credit: East Durham College

A teenage boy who has had to give up sport as his organs are slowly compressed by his ribs is trying to raise £10,000 for surgery after being told the NHS will not fund the operation.

There is just three and a half inches between 14-year-old's Jacob Brown's sternum and spine, which means he struggles to breathe and may have to give up on his dream of joining the Army.

He has a condition known as pectus excavatum, a condition that makes the rib cage grow inwards and puts pressure on internal organs, including the heart and lungs, causing difficulty breathing.

Jacob, who is from Houghton-le-Spring, near Sunderland, was diagnosed with the condition when he was 13 after he experienced unbearable chest pain and struggled to breathe after going on a run with his mum Rachel Ferguson.

Mrs Ferguson said: "It's only going to get worse as he gets bigger."

Previously an active teenager, he has been advised not to exercise due to the possibility of over-working his heart.

Jacob, who is home educated and now spends a lot of time in his room instead of outside with his friends, told ITV Tyne Tees of his annoyance as being unable to exercise.

East Durham College student Hollie Ferguson, 19, and her brother Jacob, 14. Credit: East Durham College

His family is trying to raise £10,000 for an operation to relieve the condition as it is not currently funded by the NHS in England.

The procedure, which would involve placing a series of metal bars in Jacob's ribs, is classed as "cosmetic" in England, though it is funded by the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Jacob’s sister, Hollie Ferguson has also started a Go-Fund-Me page to raise money for the surgery.

The 19-year-old, who studies at East Durham College, said: “When we were first told by the NHS that this surgery would cost £10,000, we just could not believe it. But we’re determined to get Jacob the help he needs.”

Mrs Ferguson added: “We know the cost-of-living crisis is hitting everyone hard right now. We are a family of myself, my husband and six children, and we just don’t have any alternative but to ask others for help.

"Even if people can give a small amount, it would mean the world to everyone in our family.”

The family are organising events in their local community to help raise the money and spread awareness.

Mrs Ferguson is hosting a curry and cake night for her family and charging £5 to go towards the surgery.

She said: “I hate asking people for money, but I have to do it.”

Jacob Brown, 14, has a condition called pectus excavatum, which means there is just three-and-a-half inches between his sternum and spine. Credit: Family

The family have also contacted their MP Bridget Phillipson, who wrote to the NHS about the funding situation.

The MP for Houghton and Sunderland South told ITV Tyne Tees she is helping the family explore other options.

Last year, there was a campaign to get NHS funding for Teesside youngster Autumn Bradley, who has the same condition.

Joel Dunning, her surgeon, and MP Simon Clarke were trying to make the procedure available on the NHS.

However she was able to get the surgery thanks to an anonymous donation.

An NHS spokesperson said: "Commissioning decisions about surgery and other treatments on the NHS are based on advice from doctors and are kept under constant review. The latest medical evidence for this procedure is currently being considered."

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