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Real Life

Australia's brave little bubble boy

Say hello to Australia's boy in the bubble — a playful toddler who is allergic to the rest of the world. Since he was 10 months of age, Harrison Saunders has needed to be cocooned from the sort of life everyone else takes for granted. Even a loving kiss from his doting mum Tammy is life-threatening for the 19-month-old. Harrison suffers from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome (SCIDS), also known as "boy in the bubble" syndrome. This one-in-a-million condition means Harrison has no immune system. For much of his life, the toddler from Townsville in northern Queensland has watched the world through the window of a hospital isolation ward. The air he breathes is specially filtered, and every single item in the ward is sterilised. "When Harrison was at his sickest, I wasn't allowed to hold him," Tammy explains. "I couldn't pick him up, dry his tears or change his nappies. "It's the hardest thing in the world not to be able to kiss and comfort your child. He didn't know what was going on. All of a sudden, Mum is on the opposite side of the room and not coming to him." This devastating and medically confounding illness has turned the lives of his family — mum Tammy, dad Ivan and Harrison's brother Mitchell, 4 — upside down. They have had to leave the dream home they were building in Townsville, transfer jobs and uproot Mitchell from daycare, to embark on a quest to save Harrison's life at the better-equipped Royal Brisbane Children's Hospital. "I thought we'd be in Brisbane for a couple of weeks," says an exhausted Tammy. "Here we are, nine months later, waiting to see if he's going to be OK."

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