Sense Scotland: Bonnybridge's Theo Chatham, two, stars in charity's TV advert

A two-year-old boy who has spent his whole life in hospital is the star of a new TV advert for a charity’s Christmas Appeal.
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Little Theo Chatham’s heart-breaking story is told in the first ever TV advert for Sense Scotland, a Scottish charity and specialised social care provider giving support to people with additional support needs.

The toddler contracted Necrotising Enterocolitis (NED) which led to brain damage and has cerebral visual impairment.

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In his short life he has already undergone 46 surgical procedures.

Theo Chatham,, aged 2, in the Royal Children’s Hospital, Glasgow with mum Sarah and dad Gary. Pic: ContributedTheo Chatham,, aged 2, in the Royal Children’s Hospital, Glasgow with mum Sarah and dad Gary. Pic: Contributed
Theo Chatham,, aged 2, in the Royal Children’s Hospital, Glasgow with mum Sarah and dad Gary. Pic: Contributed

Hopes that he would soon be able to return to the family home in Bonnybridge for Christmas were recently dashed after he suffered a setback in his care. It now looks likely he will be spending his third Christmas Day in the Sick Kids hospital in Glasgow.

Due to complications during pregnancy, Theo was born at 32 weeks on April 1, 2021, weighing only 3lbs.

His parents, Sarah McGuire and Gary Chatham, knew there would be challenges but were delighted when they first held him at five days old. The couple were hopeful he would be home by his due date of May 23.

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However, as Gary explained, at only three weeks old, their little one was rushed to the Glasgow hospital.

Theo Chatham with Kim, the early years advisor with charity Sense Scotland. Pic: ContributedTheo Chatham with Kim, the early years advisor with charity Sense Scotland. Pic: Contributed
Theo Chatham with Kim, the early years advisor with charity Sense Scotland. Pic: Contributed

He said: “Sarah and I went to register Theo’s birth and went out to celebrate. Then at 2am we received the phone call that no-one wanted to hear and we were told to rush to the hospital.”

NEC had been ravaging through his intestines and he was in a critical condition.

Gary added: “We went by blue light ambulance to the Sick Kids. We were told Theo was unlikely to make it to Cumbernauld far less Glasgow but he did. The darkest days of our longest week or our rollercoaster began.

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"Each operation was more life threatening and life changing than the last. Every time we were told he could possibly die.”

Theo Chatham has spent all his young life in hospital. Pic: ContributedTheo Chatham has spent all his young life in hospital. Pic: Contributed
Theo Chatham has spent all his young life in hospital. Pic: Contributed

Sarah said: “Theo’s condition is complex – in addition to having Short Bowel Syndrome, he has brain damage and cerebral visual impairment. He had 25 major operations by the time he was 17 months old, as well as hundreds of smaller procedures. We’ve been by his side every day, caring for him and learning as much as we can to give him the best chance at life.”

But despite all the medical teams were doing for Theo his parents knew something was missing – he wasn’t thriving.

Then the family were introduced to Sense Scotland and their dedicated early years team, who found the missing piece: communication.

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Now, Theo has weekly sessions with Kim, the charity’s early years advisor, who has helped him to accept touch, explore with his senses and to better communicate with his parents what he wants and how he feels.

The charity says they now understand each other more and are making incredible progress as a family.

The couple, who have older children from previous relationships and are both trained chefs, gave up work to be with Theo round the clock. The couple are constantly by their little one’s side, staying in the nearby Ronald McDonald House.

Last week, Gary made an emotional speech after the TV advert was shown for the first time at the Sense Scotland charity ball in Kelvingrove Art Gallery, when he told what a difference the charity had made to them.

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Sarah added: “Sense Scotland and Kim have been there for us and we can’t praise them enough. We’ll do anything we can to help them, which is why we’re sharing our story. We know that, as a family, we have many challenges ahead of us but we are committed to doing everything we can and giving everything we have to ensure that Theo has a healthy and happy life.”

Theo’s story is captured in the 30-second Sense Scotland’s Christmas Appeal advert and narrated by Sarah. It is currently broadcasting across the central belt of Scotland on STV.

You can learn more about Theo’s story and donate to Sense Scotland’s Christmas Appeal here

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