“Eczema doesn’t kill you, it kills your life.”

At the young age of four months, Robert Kenrick’s daughter Martha was diagnosed with eczema. For Robert, this meant rubbing his daughter’s back for almost an hour at night to help her get to sleep because her skin was so itchy. It meant seeing her fall behind in school as she wasn’t getting the amount of sleep a young child needs. It changed not only Martha’s life, but that of Robert and his wife, Euphemia.

Hearing about the life-changing allergy research of Dr Dave Yip from the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB), Robert was beyond thrilled to learn research was underway to help improve Martha’s life and that of so many other Australians like her. Robert has committed to funding Dr Yip’s research for three years through The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF), confident he could develop a better treatment for eczema.

“All through Martha’s childhood, from the age of about four months, her eczema kept recurring. It would appear on her back, to behind her legs and sometimes all over. Everything we gave her to eat she seemed to be reacting to,” Robert said.

“Between the ages of three and six she wasn’t sleeping well because she was itchy, so we had to rub her back for about 45 minutes until she fell asleep, then again when she woke up in the middle of the night,” Robert said.

Robert and Euphemia managed to control Martha’s eczema in Year 1 by eliminating foods to which she was sensitive from her diet on a rotational basis.

“It wasn’t fun but it worked.  I remember the joy when, three weeks after we started the diet, Martha slept through the night for the first time in months.”

However the eczema came back with a vengeance when she was in Year 10.

“It was the beginning of her SACE course so we think it was a reaction to stress. It limited what she could do as a normal teenager with her friends, she couldn’t wear the same clothes for fear of showing the rash and she got itchy whenever she exercised,” Robert said.

Now 24-years-old and graduated from her nursing degree, Martha manages her eczema with steroid cream and moisturiser which she has to apply on a daily basis.

“There is no good treatment for eczema. The standard approach is to stick patients on steroid creams, but the cream only helps your skin heal, it doesn’t stop the eczema from coming back.”

Despite allergies being the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia, steroid cream is one of the only treatment options for people like Martha, with the cream unfortunately having its own side effects.

Now armed with Robert’s support through THRF, Dr Yip is confident his research could see a new treatment for eczema that doesn’t lead to side effects like that of steroid cream.

Dr Yip is investigating mast cells, which reside in human tissue and play a crucial role in triggering allergic responses, like a rash for people with eczema. He is studying these mast cells to determine how they can be controlled to stop them triggering this allergic response but keep their positive functions within the body.

Determined to see a future free of steroid creams and other daily necessities for his daughter, Robert is confident Dr Yip and his team’s research at the CCB could be a game changer for eczema treatment.

“Having eczema has impacted Martha’s entire life, so the prospect of her not having to use this steroid cream again is very exciting. I’m extremely hopeful.”

THRF prides ourselves in helping donors like Robert donate to research areas they are passionate about. If you have an area of research you would like to donate to, please call us on (08) 8244 1100 or email us at contactus@hospitalresearch.com.au.

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