Dad climbs tower to thank hospital for daughter’s pioneering treatment

A father is climbing up Europe’s tallest hospital building to thank medics after his daughter received a cutting-edge treatment which prevents brain damage.

Ben Miles, 37, from Claygate in Surrey, is taking on Guy’s Urban Challenge on his daughter Sophie’s fifth birthday. The event includes climbing the 628 steps of Guy’s Hospital tower, and Ben will be taking part to fundraise for Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

Ben and his wife, Emma, had been told that Sophie could be brain damaged after she suffered a loss of oxygen in the womb due to a rare condition called fetal maternal haemorrhage, which restricts blood flow to the baby.

Thanks to teams at Evelina London, Sophie received an innovative treatment known as hypothermic neural rescue, and made a full recovery. The treatment aims to prevent long-term damage to the brain by cooling the body.

During the treatment, which requires advanced intensive care, the body is cooled from 37 degrees to around 33 or 34 degrees using a water-cooled jacket for three days. This stops brain cells that have been deprived of oxygen from dying.

Ben said: “My wife was 35 weeks pregnant when she noticed that Sophie had stopped moving. We knew that lack of fetal movement can be a sign of a serious problem so we went straight to our local hospital. Tests showed Sophie’s heart wasn’t functioning normally, which was suggestive of a fetal maternal haemorrhage. The doctors were very concerned so Sophie was delivered by an emergency caesarean that same day. When she was born she was very ill and the doctors feared that she had suffered serious brain damage due to a loss of oxygen. It was an extremely difficult time.”

The doctors at Sophie’s local hospital contacted the neonatal team at Evelina London and she was transferred immediately to Evelina London’s neonatal intensive care unit. Sophie received cooling treatment for three days and was able to go home a few weeks later.

Ben added: “We hadn’t heard of this treatment before but we really believe it prevented her from developing permanent brain damage. She has shown no signs of long-term developmental delay and is now a very happy, bubbly four-year-old schoolgirl who loves dressing up as Disney princesses. You would never know that she had such a difficult start in life.

“We feel that the treatment she received at Evelina London has completely changed her quality of life. We feel very lucky and eternally grateful to the hospital’s staff. We really couldn’t thank them enough.”

Guy’s Urban Challenge takes place on Saturday 29 September and involves a 2.4km run in the streets surrounding Guy’s Hospital in Southwark, followed by a 15km cycle on exercise bikes, and a 29 floor stair climb up to top of Guy’s Tower. The money Ben raises from the challenge will go to Evelina London, which is part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Ben said: “Taking part in the event is my way of saying thank you to the amazing staff who looked after Sophie. I know the challenge will be tough but it is great knowing that I will be raising money for a really fantastic cause. Sophie will turn five on the day of the challenge and will be there with my wife cheering me on, so the day will feel extra special.”

Professor David Edwards, consultant neonatologist at Evelina London and director of the Centre for the Developing Brain in King’s College London, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Sophie is doing well and Ben has chosen to raise vital funds for us.

“Hypothermic neural rescue is the only available medical intervention that can help to prevent serious disabilities and even death in babies who have suffered a loss of oxygen in the womb or during their birth.

“Our research group spent 20 years developing this treatment, beginning in the laboratory and moving to large collaborative trials in patients. It is now in use across the world, and the NHS has developed a system to allow babies who need it to be moved to specialist neonatal intensive care centres which have the skills and equipment to provide it, like Evelina London. This is essential because treatment has to be started within six hours of birth and requires full intensive care with very skilled nursing.

“Our research shows that hypothermic neural rescue therapy doubles the chance that affected babies will grow up to live healthy lives, free from life-changing disabilities. We are continuing to undertake research to maximise the benefits of treatment.”

To support Ben’s fundraising, please visit:

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