At her 20-week scan, Sherri was told that her son, Ronnie, had a hole in his heart, alongside severe stomach complications – health issues that left Ronnie unlikely to survive pregnancy and birth. “They told me the unthinkable was the kindest option,” explains Sherri. However, refusing to believe that Ronnie should be deprived the chance at life, she refused abortion. “If there was even a glimmer of hope, it was his chance to take and not ours to take away,” explains Sherri.
Defying all odds, Ronnie survived pregnancy and was born completely naturally, however was soon rushed to surgery to address his health complications. “After this surgery they discovered his liver was in the wrong place and he had no spleen,” says Sherri. “We were told that we shouldn’t wake him and we should opt for ‘comfort care’, I told the doctors to go f**k themselves… He then woke up and, at four days old, he had his first open-heart surgery. Astounding doctors, Ronnie pulled through and was soon sent home. “The nurses named him Ironman,” says Sherri, “the little boy who was never meant to survive pregnancy was now a week old and two surgeries down.”
However, just over four months later, Ronnie was back in hospital again for a third operation but, after severe complications, was too fragile to recover a third time. “Our baby was dying, he was weak, he had brain damage and anything below his heart had given up. We chose to take him to Demelza House, a place where he could be cuddled and loved in his final hours, free from pain and surrounded by loved ones.”
Turning to running
Passionate about giving something back to Demelza – and resolute that her baby’s life would not be in vain – Sherri applied to Demelza for a London Marathon place. Writing to the charity, she said:
“Our babies final hours were done with your help. And now I’d like to thank you….in a way that will help other families and children to keep what you do going. If I could run in memory of my son and benefit all those families that are yet to face what I did, then I’d be able to keep my head in a straight line.”
Given a place by Demelza, Sherri’s training gave her a positive focus, when her world became flooded by emptiness. “I can’t explain the feeling I had then, and live with every day. Running gave me a focus though, it meant I wasn’t stewing on a sad thought for more than a minute. My son Brandon (now six) told me Ronnie was watching me on my runs … I believe he was.”
“One in six billion”
Just when Sherri found her lifeline, as she approached the half-way point in her training, she became injured, forcing her to pull out of the marathon. However, Sherri refused to let this thwart her positive mindset. “Having to pull out of the marathon was devastating,” says Sherri. “I am, however, determined that something will come of it. Take something positive from negative is a bit of a life motto for me.”
Told by surgeons that Ronnie’s life was “one in six billion” – and one that they would learn from – knowing that her son’s legacy would go onto help others has helped Sherri to cope with her loss. “I said from the day we lost Roo that his life wouldn’t be in vain, it had to mean something and had to make a difference. Knowing that my baby will go on to save another, saves me every day.”
Sherri is continuing to fundraise for Demelza and won’t be stopping any time soon. “I’m just waiting to see what the next big thing will be… if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly after all.”
You can donate to Sherri’s Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Sherri-West.
Demelza Hospice is one of the six hospices of Children’s Hospices Across London (CHaL), the Official Headline Charity Sponsor of our WR10K Finsbury Park race this year, taking place 25 September. To sign up and run for CHaL, visit: womensrunninguk.co.uk/wr10k/london-2016/.