A SEVEN-year-old County Durham boy is leading a national awareness week campaign for a charity supporting people who rely on artificial nutrition through tube feeding.

Ezekiel Martin, of Consett , who has had a feeding tube since he was a baby and has to be artificially fed for 17 hours each day, is opening the charity’s awareness week on Monday with a call out to other people with a feeding tube to challenge themselves to do something outside their comfort zone.

The charity Patients on Intravenous and Naso-gastric Nutrition Treatment (Pinnt) was set up to support patients like Ezekiel who need artificial nutrition. Each year, they run an awareness campaign called Home Artificial Nutrition Week (Han Week).

Ezekiel said: “I think being tube fed is okay. It can be quite hard sometimes but I can still do lots of things that I love.

“I am really proud to record my message and hope it makes people feel good. I hope people will learn about tube feeding see that we are just like other people.”

Ezekiel, who has relied on artificial nutrition since he was a baby, because of food allergies and eating problems, receives most of his nutrition through tube feeding and can only eat small amounts of food and drink small glasses of water.

Since he was eleven-months-old, he has carried a 2,100g backpack containing his feed when out and about. Alongside his work championing Pinnt, he has also led awareness raising activities at his school.

These include making an assembly presentation on tube feeding and leading his classmates in an experiment to test out wearing similar backpacks. He has had multiple hospital stays and 21 operations in five years.

Ezekiel’s Mum Amy said: “It’s a real honour for Ezekiel to lead this campaign. Pinnt does such good work to support families who have to adjust to the realities of life with tube feeding.

“Despite Ezekiel’s positive attitude, there is no denying that being a parent to a child who is tube fed is challenging.

“Every month we have over 50 boxes of medical supplies delivered to the house, and so we have a cupboard and a shed full of the medicines Ezekiel needs just to get his basic nutrition.

“Obviously, life is not straightforward. The support and sense of community that we get from Pinnt is vital. I’m thrilled for him that he is able to give something back especially this year when a lot of people who rely on artificial nutrition have had a particularly difficult few months because of additional health concerns during coronavirus.”

Ezekiel receives ‘enteral nutrition’ in liquid form through a surgical jejunostomy tube which is inserted directly into his gastrointestinal tract. It is estimated that around 47,000 people in the UK are dependent on enteral nutrition at home, while around 2,500 rely on parenteral nutrition (where nutrients are delivered directly into the bloodstream) at home.

Pinnt founder Carolyn Wheatley said: “Ezekiel embodies the spirit of HAN Week. He is always challenging himself and wants other people to do the same too in order to show the world that relying on artificial nutrition shouldn’t hold you back.

“He has had a lot to cope with in his life so far but has a determination to make things better for other people going through challenges too. Our goal during HAN Week is to inspire people to feel better and more positive about life, and to help raise awareness, and we are thrilled that Ezekiel will lead our efforts to do this.”