Sara and her youngest son Tom.

Giving back - Why Sara is running the London Marathon

When Sara’s son, Tom, started having epileptic fits at five-weeks old, it would bring challenges that she couldn’t imagine. Thirteen years on, she talks about what happened and how The Royal British Legion helped.

Sara’s husband, Mac, was about to leave for an expedition to the Himalayas when she said that they should start a family.

“I met him at the airport when he came back,” says Sara, “And he just went, ‘I’ve been thinking, let’s do it. Let’s start a family.’, which was very exciting. So we did and along came Will, my eldest.”

 

“It wasn’t until Tom was five weeks old that everything went wrong."

They were living in London at the time, but the house wasn’t ideal for bringing up a family so they moved to Bristol.

“I decided that Will needed a brother and along came Tom.”

Tom was premature, but once he was out of the hospital he seemed to be developing well but it wasn’t to last. Mac left for training in Scotland when Tom was five-weeks-old, it was only a few days later that the hospital rang him to say that he needed to come back to say goodbye to his youngest son.

Tom makes two

“Tom was five weeks premature, he was so small that Mac used to call him Tiny Tom. He was only four pounds and 13 ounces.

“It wasn’t until Tom was five weeks old that everything went wrong."

Sara's kept the pre-natal scans of Tom.

Sara has kept all of Tom's pre-natal scans.

“Mac always had a premonition that something wasn’t quite right, saying that Tom’s the wrong colour and he doesn’t look right but nobody was listening.

“It wasn’t until Mac was up in Scotland taking a course that Tom started having some funny episodes.

“It was very strange, he used to be awake all night and asleep all day. Then one day I felt him sort of stop breathing on me, and then he started again but the next day you couldn’t wake him. He wouldn’t stir.

“So I rang NHS direct and they said, ‘Is he blue?’ and I replied, ‘No, he’s grey’. I had no idea that this was worse than blue, and the next thing I knew the ambulance was outside and we were being blue lighted to hospital."

Tom in an incubator when he was just a few days old.

Tom in the incubator when he was only a few days old.

Tom had an infection in his brain which caused epilepsy and a subsequent brain haemorrhage. 

“It turned out Tom was having epileptic fits. So he was on life support for three days. They didn’t think that he was going to pull through and they rang Mac in Scotland saying that he had to come home to say goodbye to his baby son. So he drove through the night from the wilds of Scotland down to Bristol thinking that he was never going to see his son again.

“They put him on some very serious medication to control his epilepsy. So he came out of hospital for a bit and we were trying to relax and be a normal family.

“We went out for a meal with my mum and dad. I was watching Tom and thinking he’s not waking up for a feed. I took him out and he was struggling again so we were back into hospital very quickly and he stayed there for about six weeks. I was really scared then to bring him home.

“So we brought him home and he was like a time bomb, every time he coughed Mac jumped up. It was horrendous.”

Army veteran Mack, with his sons Tom and Will.

Mac looks on while Will holds Tom.

A helping hand

“When we had Tom, the house only had an upstairs loo. Which wasn’t ideal when I used to come back in with a small child and a baby, desperate to go to the loo and having to run upstairs.

“So we got a local company to install a downstairs loo, and they sorted out the fundraising for it. It was only when they were building it that we found out that the Legion had funded it. It made such a difference, not just for us but also for when we were toilet-training Tom. It was a life saver.

Tom as a young baby.

Tom become stronger the older he got.

“They also installed a gate on the driveway which stopped Tom from just running into the busy road. It also gave him somewhere to play, one of his early things that he liked doing was kicking a ball up and down.

“They did say that Tom would make quite a good recovery because he was so young when it happened. I think nobody really knew what to expect, but gradually he’s grown stronger and now he’s like an ox.

“He could have not walked, could have not talked, but he’s doing all those things and more. We’ve even got him doing climbing and he does junior park run on a Sunday, he runs round as part of Team Mackay and we shout him on."

Running the Marathon

“I got into running properly about three years ago, before that I was going to the gym a lot. Exercise has really helped me deal with the day-to-day issues, as it’s my time.

“I was doing five and ten kilometre runs, just for myself and then I decided to put myself in for the ballot. I was thinking, ‘Let’s go for it’, so when I didn’t get in I was devastated.

"I imagine it will take me between four and a half to five hours, with time to cry."

“I really wanted to do it then, and of course you get the losers magazine, and I opened it and there was an advert saying run with the Legion. So I emailed, got in and I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s meant to be.’

“It’s been really tough training. I did 22 miles earlier this week. I keep saying to everyone if I say I’m going to do another one just hit me. I just want to get round in one piece for this one. I think I put down some ridiculous time when I entered it, but I imagine it will take me between four and a half to five hours, with time to cry.

Sara and her youngest son, Tom, sitting on the sofa.

Tom, now aged 13, with his mum Sara.

“It is a nice feeling, paying it back. The help from the Legion came at a very difficult time for us as Mac had just left the military.

“That’s why I think it’s so nice, all these years later, to say, ‘Right, I’m going to run the London Marathon and I’m going to do it for the Legion.’ It feels really good to pay it back after all the support we had.”

Support Sara

Sara is fundraising for The Royal British Legion, help her reach her target.

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