A Blessing for the Whole Family
Guest Blogger: Tony Wiginton
When my wife Julia and I fell pregnant for the first time it was the best news we could hope for. However, at an early scan we were informed of abnormalities with our baby's heart. As the pregnancy progressed the true nature of the abnormalities became clear and our unborn son Harry was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
We were referred to the UK’s leading heart specialist in London who monitored Harry’s heart throughout the pregnancy and devised a best and worst case plan of action following birth. Both scenarios meant that Harry would spend at least his first few weeks at Guy’s Hospital having one or more surgeries. During the pregnancy we were put in touch with Ronald McDonald House Charities and we were delighted and relieved to be offered accommodation a short walk from Harry’s bedside. We lived in Newport Pagnell in Milton Keynes at the time, so the 120 mile round trip to Guy’s would’ve been very difficult for us to do every day to be with Harry.
Harry was born 25 October 2004 and although his surgery ended up being ‘fairly routine’ and the repairs to his heart were described as ‘excellent’, the recovery wasn’t without incident and to be able to be with him during his three week hospital stay, day or night, was a blessing for the whole family. This was made possible by Ronald McDonald House Charities who put me and my wife up in their accommodation located a short walk from Guy’s Hospital. Not only was the location convenient and the facilities great, the staff were absolutely fantastic! I’m very moved that there are people out there that make this possible, people that had never met myself or my family but donate their time and money to help people like us.
I decided that I too would do something to help raise money and decided to enter an Ultra Marathon called ‘The Wall’ in 2015. The Wall is a 69 mile nonstop Ultra Marathon from Carlisle to Newcastle following Hadrian's Wall. After 20 weeks of training, race day was finally here and I started the run with 500 other runners at 7am Saturday 20 June. After 16 hours and 44 painful minutes I arrived at the finish line at the Millennium Bridge, Newcastle. I'd pictured a nice pint of beer waiting for me at the finish but all I could manage was a curly wurly before heading back to the hotel for a well-deserved sleep!
This was the hardest physical challenge of my life! The training alone consisted of running five times a week for 20 weeks, with some of the runs at the weekends covering between 25 – 30 miles. Come race day, the furthest I had ran was 30 miles so everything beyond this was uncharted territory. The terrain was a mixture of road, path and trail with some huge ascents in the first 30 miles. The scenery was amazing, and the weather on the day was perfect for running. I took every opportunity to take in the beauty of my surroundings and the impressiveness of the wall and although I would love to say I enjoyed every minute of it, in reality it was extremely hard, both mentally and physically to keep going. If it weren’t for the support, the great cause and painkillers, I doubt I would have made it!
Friends, Family and work colleagues helped me raise a total of £467 for Ronald McDonald House Charities. I'm very proud of this and intend to better it with the next challenge sometime in the future. I'd also like to add that I wouldn't have been able to complete this without the support from my wife Julia who supported me during training and the race, and then nursed me back to health afterwards!
Harry is a bubbly 11 year old boy who is full of energy and doesn't sit still. Following his surgery at three days old to repair his Aorta artery, he made a rapid recovery and continues to surprise us even to this day. He has his regular check-ups at St Thomas's hospital which have now been pushed out to every two years, other than that and the scar on his chest - for which he is very proud of - you would never know what he went through as a baby. He is a keen runner, and is one of the top five cross country runners in his school. He also represents his school in football and has recently achieved his green belt in karate. On top of this he enjoys school and is looking forward to moving up to secondary school in September.