Bravery leads to a better life for Rowde boy

This Is Wiltshire: Jack Wixon, from Rowde, who underwent a major brain operation and is featured in BBC documentary Brain Doctors, pictured with his father Jack Wixon, from Rowde, who underwent a major brain operation and is featured in BBC documentary Brain Doctors, pictured with his father

A ROWDE man who has undergone more than 40 operations is featured in a new BBC documentary about the work of neurosurgeons at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

Jack Wixon, 20, was at the hospital for major brain surgery while the programme, called Brain Doctors, was being filmed.

While the operation initially went well, Jack, who has a mental age of nine, caught meningitis and contracted pneumonia which resulted in complications requiring him to go back to the operating theatre several times.

He spent 11 weeks in hospital, including four days in intensive care.

Jack has been in and out of hospital all his life as he has Crouzon syndrome and hydrocephalus.

Crouzon is a genetic disorder which causes fusion of skull bones, distorting the shape of the head and causing a high, prominent forehead, a beak-shaped nose and increased pressure inside the skull.

Hydrocephalus causes a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.

Over the years Jack has had operations to unlock and move the bones of his skull and to reconstruct the appearance of his face, and has had a tube called a shunt fitted inside his brain to drain away the excess fluid.

The major operation Jack had when the film crew were at John Radcliffe Hospital in June last year was to relieve pressure inside his skull which was affecting his brain’s ability to undertake normal daily functions. It was the second time he had had this type of operation.

His mum, Karen Wixon, of Sands Close, Rowde, stayed at the hospital the entire time Jack was there, and his dad, John Wixon, visited every day.

The couple, who are divorced, have nothing but praise for the surgeons and staff at the hospital.

Mrs Wixon, 54, who works as a teaching assistant at Canon’s House respite care home for children in Devizes and at St Nicholas School, Chippenham, said: “The first operation he had, which lasted five hours, went well. Within two to three days he was running up and down the corridor.

“He was due to come home on the Saturday, but the day before he was knocked for six with an infection.”

Mr Wixon, 49, a self-employed builder, of Estcourt Crescent, Devizes, said: “It was frightening. He was very seriously ill, especially with the pneumonia.

“The surgeons and the team at the hospital are brilliant. They are so good with him.”

Jack, who is also severely autistic and has epilepsy, went to St Nicholas School, Chippenham, and now attends Star College in Cheltenham where he is learning life skills.

He doesn’t talk and communicates using sign language.

Jack has lived in Rowde all his life and many people will recognise him from car boot sales at Seend, Lacock, The Shambles in Devizes and Daunt-sey, where he looks for Fox and Hounds Disney videos and Thomas the Tank Engine books.

His father said: “When Jack goes to hospital the staff have to go looking for an old TV/video combi for Jack to watch his videos on. He loves his TV and watches the videos on fast forward because of his autism.”

Jack faces more reconstruction and cosmetic surgery in the future.

Mr Wixon is a member of the Devizes male majorette troupe, The Major Wrecks, and he and a few fellow twirlers abseiled down the John Radcliffe Hospital and raised about £600 for the hospital.

The Major Wrecks raises money for Contact A Family and Mr Wixon said the charity had been a great support to his family.

Mr Wixon paid tribute to his son. He said: “Jack is very brave about what he has been through.

“Everybody who knows Jack loves him. He is such a likeable lad.”

n Brain Doctors started on BBC Two last night. The episode featuring Jack is on Wednesday at 9pm.

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