“You’re just never really aware of it until you need it”: the couple fundraising for the Sick Children’s Trust
22 July 2022
22 July 2022
Libby Francis and her partner Owen are two of our amazing Yorkshire Marathon participants, running with nine of their friends to raise money for the Sick Children’s Trust. The charity gave them a free place to stay near Leeds Hospital during one of the most stressful times of their lives: when their newborn son Zack was recovering from a blood clot in his brain and the amputation of his arm. Owen says, “You’re just never really aware of the support that charities like the Sick Children’s Trust give until you need it, so we’re doing it for families who may need it in the future.”
When she was 36 and a half weeks pregnant, Libby realised something wasn’t feeling quite right. “I went into the hospital and ended up having an emergency C-section. When he was born, Zack’s arm was purple and blistered, and the doctors realised something was obviously wrong. They confirmed that he had a blood clot in his arm, which was depriving it of oxygen.”
“He was too small to operate on, so they had to amputate his arm. They also realised he also had a blood clot in his brain, which has left him with some permanent brain damage,” Libby explains. They transferred him to Leeds General Infirmary, which is an hour’s drive away from Libby and Owen’s home city of Hull.
When the couple were finally able to visit their son, of course they wanted to be with him as much as possible, but Libby explains that this was difficult. “I was recovering from my emergency C-section, so I couldn’t really sit by his incubator for hours at a time. And due to Covid restrictions, Owen could only be there for a four-hour block of time each day.”
Commuting from Hull was taking a big toll and adding to the couple’s stress, so a nurse contacted the Sick Children’s Trust on their behalf to see if they could stay at Eckersley House, the charity’s nearest ‘home from home’. “They had a room for us, put us up right across from the hospital. We were there for three weeks, and it was completely free of charge for us,” Libby explains.
They were so grateful to the charity, acknowledging that they simply wouldn’t have been able to afford to stay in a hotel for that length of time. “They helped us out so much. Obviously financially, but in ways so much more than that too. It meant we had somewhere private to go, somewhere we could relax, so we could then go back stronger for Zack.”
After 22 long days in hospital, Zack was finally well enough to go home, much to the relief of his parents. He’s a bit behind on his development and has struggled with a form of epilepsy called infantile spasms, which led to another seven-day hospital stay, but overall, “Zack’s doing really well now, considering everything that happened to him,” Libby says.
The Sick Children’s Trust has existed for 40 years and have 10 ‘home from homes’ around the UK. They have helped thousands of families have one less thing to worry about when they’re going through the challenging experience of having a child in hospital. On their website, they explain that they provide “a place where families can take a step back from their situation and feel safe and relaxed in a welcoming and warm environment.”
It was Owen who had the idea of signing up to the marathon to fundraise for the Sick Children’s Trust, and he asked Libby if she thought any of their friends would want to join him. While she initially didn’t think she’d have the time to train, she decided to take part as she didn’t want to feel like she had missed out. They got their friends Andy, Louis, Chris, Katie, Chris, Katriona, Alistair, Laura, and Harry to sign up, and the whole team is really happy to be supporting this cause.
Training’s going well – Libby and Owen have both been going on two runs a week each - separately, so one of them can look after Zack at home. Libby’s looking forward to the crowds cheering them on, and the pride that comes with finishing such a long run. “It’s a huge achievement running a marathon. Taking part, finishing it, and then being able to say we’ve done that, and hopefully raising a lot of money too.”
Zack is a really happy little baby with a big smile, and he just turned one on Monday! He’ll be there supporting his mum and dad from the sidelines at the Yorkshire Marathon. “We’ll have some of our other friends looking after him on the day, but they’ll make sure he’s there when we finish,” Libby says.
Good luck to Owen, Libby, and the rest of their team – if you’d like to learn more about their story or donate, you can find their JustGiving page here!