Marathon mum to thank Evelina London for saving son's life

Posted on Friday 30th September 2022

Left: Aj in the paediatric intensive care unit. Right: Aj and his mum, Cherelle.

A mother is taking on the London marathon to thank medics for her son’s life-saving treatment at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

August-James Elson-Wharton (known as Aj) became unwell with a rash and a fever at the end of September 2021 and was taken to his local hospital. Doctors suspected he had an infection, but could not locate it so he was transferred to Evelina London Children’s Hospital on 6 October for specialist treatment.

His mum, Cherrelle Wharton, said: “Aj was a medical mystery. He was seen by the rheumatology, haematology and infectious diseases teams and had further scans and x-rays. So many people at Evelina London made a difference, including the doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.”

Aj spent 22 days at Evelina London, including 10 days in the paediatric intensive care unit. He was eventually diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis – also known as HLH – which is a rare immune disorder where the body overreacts to an infection. It causes severe inflammation and damage to tissues such as the liver, spleen and bone marrow.

Cherrelle, from Forest Hill in south east London, said: “Those 10 days were the hardest of our lives. Aj was hooked up to machines to help assist with his breathing and different tubes were placed inside him to give multiple medications – it was hard to watch but through it all the doctors and nurses did their best to keep us reassured and keep us updated.”

The 36-year-old is taking on the TCS London Marathon on Sunday 2 October to raise money for Evelina London Children’s Charity. She completed her first marathon in 2018 in six hours and is hoping that with more training this time around she will be able to finish it sooner.

The mother-of-three said: “We realised after Aj came out of hospital that he could have died and the staff had really looked after us. I would like to raise as much money as possible for Evelina London to say thank you and to show my appreciation for everything they did for Aj and our family, and to ensure they can continue to help other families like ours in the future.”

Cherrelle added: “Aj is five years old and is back at school. He doesn’t remember his time in hospital but I took lots of photos and have his files so he can look back one day to see what he went through and how brave he was.”

Dr Jenny Handforth, a consultant in paediatric infectious diseases and immunology at Evelina London, was one of the many staff who helped care for Aj.

Dr Handforth said: “Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis – or HLH – can be an extremely challenging condition to diagnose and treat. A huge team of skilled health professionals across a range of services at Evelina London worked together to provide the best possible care for Aj and to support his family.

“I know I speak on behalf of all the teams involved in his care, which includes paediatric infectious diseases, haematology, rheumatology, intensive care, general paediatrics, cardiology, pharmacy and allied health professionals, that we are extremely pleased and proud that Aj has done so well. We are so grateful to his mum, Cherrelle, for taking on the London marathon to support Evelina London so we can be there for even more children in the future.”

To help Cherrelle reach her fundraising target, visit her fundraising page.