When grandmother Elaine saw her grandson fight for his life, his incredible resilience inspired her to test her own physical and mental strength – through running. Aged 58, Elaine decided to lace up her trainers for the first time, taking on a 10K running challenge for The Sick Children’s Trust – a charity that provided a huge support to her family while her grandson was seriously ill in hospital. Elaine, from Epping, Essex, was determined to give something back to the charity, and has raised an incredible £2,200 for The Sick Children’s Trust through the challenge.
A traumatic few weeks
Elaine’s grandson, Ralph, was born via emergency C-section on 23 October 2014. The first few days of his life were plagued with traumatic and life-threatening complications.
“Ralph’s heart started slowing and he was resuscitated a number of times before being taken to the Colchester Neonatal Unit,” said Elaine. “On day two, he began to suffer from fits and seizures and suffered from a series of symptoms, including low birth weight and an inability to maintain temperature and glucose levels.
“All these symptoms pointed to the virus CMV, but no evidence was ever found of this infection. As he started to stabilise it was decided that he should go to Addenbrooke’s hospital for further investigation.”
As Elaine’s family left for Addenbrooke’s in a state of exhaustion, fear and worry, they were told there may be some accommodation for them within the hospital, but this was not guaranteed. However, within a couple of hours of arrival, a nurse handed them some keys for a room in Chestnut House – accommodation funded by The Sick Children’s Trust to allow families to stay close to their sick children. During this extremely challenging and distressing time, the accommodation and emotional support provided by Chestnut House brought much comfort for Ralph’s family.
“It was fantastic to be able to be near Ralph 24/7,” said Elaine. “Nurses could ring out from the bedroom if needed and we could be by his side within two minutes. Despite being located within the hospital, it doesn’t feel like a hospital. It is very homely.
“Two beds in the room meant that Peter, my son, could also stay with us. This offered the emotional support she needed.”
Ralph was in Addenbrooke’s hospital for around two weeks where he made a steady recovery and was sent back to the Colchester Neonatal Unit. Despite further investigation, the doctors never found out the cause to his illness and Ralph is now completely healed, described by the doctors as a “Medical Marvel”.
Overwhelmed by the support offered by Chestnut House, Elaine decided she would take on a 10K running challenge on the day of Ralph’s first birthday to raise money for The Sick Children’s Trust. She decided that on this day she would run two separate 5Ks in 24 hours around The Rosie Hospital, and would embark on the NHS Couch to 5K to help her through the training.
“I chose running because I have never done this before – or indeed thought that I could! Ralph is such a real little fighter that I felt I wanted to do something that would be a big personal challenge!”
Unfit and overweight, Elaine told us that she found her first few runs extremely difficult. “I will never forget that first run with my daughter, Michelle. I thought that I would never achieve the distance, as just running for one minute felt like a marathon. I wanted to cry but baby Ralph has been such an inspiration that made me carry on.”
Despite being out of the house 12 hours a day, working and commuting, Elaine managed to fit in the training and gradually built up the distance, using her local parkrun in Maldon as a helpful resource to train and meet like-minded people.
The runners of Maldon parkrun donated generously, as did Elaine’s friends, family and colleagues, who were impressed by Elaine’s commitment. Elaine’s husband, Les, took control of the fundraising strategy, using his experience of working with the Round Table to help with the push.
“Les developed my Just Giving web page and personally emailed all our family, friends and colleagues he also sent regular reminders. Les always spent time thanking people personally as well.”
An emotional day
On the day of the challenge, Elaine received overwhelming support from her family. “This was such an emotional day,” she said. “I was supported by all Ralph’s close family, including his little two cousins, aged two and three, who held little signs saying, ‘Go Nanny, we love you’. Ralph really enjoyed all the excitement as well!”
Since the challenge, Elaine has found a new found joy in running, continuing to run regularly and take part in her local parkrun.
“I love the freedom of being able to do it without booking into an exercise class,” she says. “I love getting out into the fresh air; I feel fitter, more energetic and healthier. I’ve lost two stone as well which is such an added benefit.
“My goal is to continue to lose weight and keep healthy so that Les and I are the best grandparents we could be.
“I never thought that I would experience anything first-hand like we did when Ralph was born. It has made me more determined to support in getting the best of services we can for families, and to challenge government thinking on the kind of provision that would not be possible without the fantastic work of The Sick Children’s Trust.”