Special transatlantic visit to Sheila’s plaque to honour father’s legacy | News

Special transatlantic visit to Sheila’s plaque to honour father’s legacy

Chris Gerrard visits the plaque with Prof. MacDonald, Prof. Green, Ruth Wilkin and Dr Bugg You may have read in October about the incredible story of Sheila Jones, the first patient in the world to be treated for Phenylketonuria (PKU) using a special diet prepared at our Children’s Hospital in 1951. Well, we were delighted to welcome the son of one of the key figures in Sheila’s treatment, Dr John Gerrard, who travelled over from the United States to find out more about his father’s legacy 70 years on.

Chris Gerrard made the journey all the way from Washington DC to visit the plaque commemorating the work his father and colleagues, Dr Horst Bickel and Dr Evelyn Hickmans, undertook to improve Sheila’s life and those of thousands more who followed.

The team were recognised in 1962 with the John Scott Award for their work, including a medal, which is now back at our hospital, a gift from the Gerrard family.

PKU is a rare inherited disorder, due to an enzyme deficiency, which results in an inability to break down an amino acid, phenylalanine (a building block of protein). Without treatment, it causes severe learning disability.

Chris said: “That fact that I was born here, it feels like a homecoming being back at the Children’s Hospital. It was very emotional seeing the plaque and the John Scott medal here today commemorating the work my father did over 70 years ago when I was just a baby.

"I inherited the medal, but my brothers and I decided it should be here on display. I'm thrilled that it's displayed so nicely so everyone can come and see it and that my father has been honoured in such a way."

Chris Gerrard visits the labs Chris and his wife, Mary, were met by Professor Anne Green, who wrote a book on Sheila’s life, Professor Anita MacDonald OBE, Consultant Dietitian in Inherited Metabolic Disorders, Dr Neil Bugg, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, and Ruth Wilkin, Director of Communications and Partnerships. Together they visited the plaque, took in a tour of the hospital and sampled some PKU snacks.

Professor MacDonald said: “It was a huge privilege to meet Chris Gerrard who was fascinated by the progress that had been made in the treatment of PKU and the work we do at the hospital.

“Chris gave us so many insights into his father. Professor John Gerrard was a very kind and compassionate man as well as a pioneering doctor. In addition to his work on PKU, he did research on coeliac disease and food allergy and was one of the originators of the 'Hygiene hypothesis' to explain the increase in allergic disease. He actively promoted breast feeding throughout his paediatric career. He was an incredible man and a wonderful inspiration to each of his three children.”

Read more about Sheila’s incredible story on our website.

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