Friday, June 21, 2013

Finlay the Athlete

Over the past five years our family has been helped by a huge range of individuals and groups. In time we hope to be able to give back to as many of these as possible. Recently an opportunity arose to help one of these charities. Here’s the story of how it went:

I like to run. I’m never going to break records but it keeps me fit, gets me out of the house and, since Finlay has been around has been a great source of stress-reliefrecords but it keeps me fit, gets me out of the house and, since Finlay has been around has been a great : my me time. So every year I run in the local marathon. And each year, while I’ve been pounding the local streets, my elder two sons have run in the 3K kids’ fun run. And every year Finlay has waited at the finish line to watch his brothers finish and get their medals.

But this year he turned 5 years old and it was finally his turn. He would get to line up on the start line alongside his brothers and hundreds of other local children.

Each year the marathon adopts a charity which runners can raise money for. By chance this year it was Ronald McDonald House. During Finlay’s short life he has spent many weeks in hospital far from home. While these have been difficult times for us they would have been so, so much harder without Ronald McDonald House. Having somewhere to stay right next to the hospital rather than in a cheap, ill-equipped motel a bus ride away has been invaluable. To have a place that is built and run solely for the purpose of helping families of hospitalised children just lifts a huge amount of stress from our shoulders at a time when we need it the most. We owe them a debt we can never repay, but this year’s marathon gave us the chance to give a little back.

I didn’t feel I could ask for sponsorship for running a marathon as I’ve run them before and, although each one is a huge challenge, I think to ask people to dip into their pockets I should be pushing beyond my limits to justify the sponsorship. However, although my efforts weren’t worthy of asking people to give, Finlay’s were. After all he has gone through in his short life and everything he endures on a daily basis just getting to the starting line was a victory of immense proportions.

So we set up a sponsorship page for Finlay and soon had donations stacking up from friends and family. Social media is great for this kind of endeavour as word spreads quickly around the world from friend to friend. But then things got bigger than we imagined.

Ronald McDonald House, with our permission, passed his story to a journalist from the local newspaper. Each year they have extensive coverage of the marathon the day after the race with results and reports. And they usually have a feel-good story to accompany it as there is usually a plethora of people raising money for countless great charities, running in memory of relatives or in support of friends. This year, out of all the fantastic personal stories they chose Finlay to be their main piece in the print version with a nice accompanying online version.

And there was an amazing response with complete strangers donating money and even a lady from a city in another part of the country tracking us down and phoning us to tell my wife how wonderful she was! Weeks later I am still getting people at work telling me they saw the story.

The race itself was great. We didn’t know quite how his sugar levels would react so we turned down the rate on his insulin pump before the race and gave him a much smaller bolus than usual with his feed beforehand. It turned out we over-compensated as he ran quite high throughout the race and afterwards. But rather high than low and we got him back in range later in the afternoon.

Finlay sprints toward the finishing line

He ran really well with Mum by his side, although he slowed a little half-way round as his heart struggled to get the oxygen round his body. Day to day it’s easy to forget that his heart still hasn’t been fixed properly and I dread to think what his oxygen saturation goes down to when he exerts himself – the cardiologists assure us he will stop long before his heart does and so far that’s been the case!

Thanks to the lady from the charity that offered to hold Vicky’s bag while she was running not realising that its contents were half pharmacy, half sweet shop as it contained any emergency provisions Finlay might have needed. I’m glad to report the bag was never opened!

Also thanks to the marathon runner that passed by who thought the backpack with his insulin pump was a miniature Camelbak! That’s the second time that’s happened although he was just finishing a 42K race so can probably rightly claim fatigue.

All in all it was a great day, he raised over $1200 and, thanks to the local paper, we have a great souvenir to go along with his first finisher’s medal.

The boys proudly display their medals

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