Patients at Birmingham Children’s Hospital will soon benefit from a new revolutionary laser treatment, thanks to an inspiring seven-year-old girl who took on a marathon fundraising challenge, which raised over £200,000, in just three months, for the hospital that saved her life.

Elizabeth Soffe and her family were living in Qatar when, at just six-months-old, Elizabeth’s cot caught fire after an air conditioning unit malfunctioned. She was severely burned and flown by air ambulance to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, an international centre of excellence for paediatric burns, where she received months of complex plastic surgery and reconstruction operations.

Miraculously, Elizabeth survived and has since received over 70 operations, including reconstruction of her face, arms and hands, skin grafts, releases of skin grafts and laser treatment. She has daily physiotherapy and occupational therapy to treat her scars and ensure her range of movement is maintained and she will need many more operations as she grows up.

Keen to help other children with burns and scarring, the superstar fundraiser set out to raise the £130,000 needed to buy a Fractional CO2 Laser for Birmingham Children’s Hospital by running a mile every day, for 26 days, until she had completed a marathon. This included 73 laps of her garden, during two episodes of isolation.

Her story captured the imagination of the public, regionally as well as nationally, which saw her fundraising total rocket more than £70,000 over her initial target to a whopping £202,751.

Fractionated delivery of CO2 laser treatment creates microscopic holes in the tissue of a scar. This energy is thought to stimulate changes in the scar tissue allowing it to reduce in size, texture and colour, making it less visible. But more importantly, it will also soften the tissue leading to improved movement and reduced tightness around scars thereby removing the need for invasive and risky scar release or skin graft surgery.

This type of specialist treatment had previously only been used in Birmingham in adult hospitals. But now, thanks to Elizabeth’s incredible donation, Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity can purchase the Fractional CO2 Laser machine, which has opened up this type of treatment for all children at the hospital who have lost functional abilities due to scarring, not just from burn injuries but from any trauma or operation.

The remaining monies will be used to benefit other areas of the hospital which have supported Elizabeth on her road to recovery including Intensive Care, Play and the Burns Centre. 

Liam Soffe, Elizabeth’s dad, said: “We are so proud of Elizabeth’s achievement, not just in completing this challenge but also for being so determined to help others with scars. We couldn’t have imagined getting to this place in the months she spent at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, so to see her so enthusiastic about getting this machine has been amazing.

“We thought it would take us over a year to raise the money needed and we’d have to organise lots of different events, so to have raised this amount money in less than three months is just brilliant.

Commenting on what benefit this new machine will bring to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Elizabeth’s surgeon, Mr Naiem Moiemen, added: “Elizabeth is such an amazing and inspirational little girl and I’m honoured to have cared for her since the first day she came to us.

“This new pioneering treatment will not only reduce the visibility of a scar but also reduce the number of operations a child needs to endure. Elizabeth herself will be a beneficiary, but as there are very few paediatric burns centres in the UK, this machine has the potential to benefit a great many children from across the country.”

Mark Brider, Chief Executive Officer at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “After everything Elizabeth has been through, to see her complete such a tough challenge to help other children and watch her total soar has been truly inspirational. We are beyond grateful for this absolutely incredible donation.

“Once in place, the Fractional CO2 Laser will not only benefit Elizabeth but many others. Our hospital is one of the UK’s leading Paediatric Centres treating over 90,000 sick kids every year, so we know this machine will be of huge benefit to plenty of other children with serious scarring not just from burns but from other trauma or surgeries too.”

Following Elizabeth’s donation, the hospital’s charity now intends to purchase and install the equipment as soon as possible, so patients can immediately receive the benefits.

Update: Elizabeth celebrated her eighth birthday by unveiling the new Fractional CO2 Laser, paid for by her fundraising. Click to read more.