Gordon Baker, who is part of Bliss’ London marathon team, explains why he is running to raise money for babies born premature or sick.
12 April, 2012 was the day that changed my life forever.
Our daughter Quinn was due on my birthday in early July, but on 12 April - on what was looking like a pretty normal Thursday - my wife Paula had her 28 week check-up appointment with the midwife who raised her concern at Paula's surprisingly high blood pressure. As well as all the usual checks she double checked her blood pressure and it gave the same result. The midwife appeared calm but sent Paula to the hospital for further checks. At this point, not sensing a major level of concern from the midwife, Paula headed to the hospital and I went off to an important work meeting. During her wait she was hooked up to the heart rate monitor and kept me updated with a few text messages. After a couple of hours they suggested it was likely that she was suffering from pre-eclampsia and should be kept in overnight. As a precaution she was given the first of three steroid injections to help the baby’s lungs if the baby had to be born early. At this point Paula called to tell me to come to the hospital - I could tell from her voice that she was really worried.
Shortly after I arrived Paula was taken to be scanned. By the end of the ultrasound the silence and the look on the sonographers face told us something was seriously wrong. The senior doctor appeared and said Paula did indeed have pre-eclampsia and it was severe. Then the bombshell was dropped – to give our baby the best possible chance of survival, we’d have to deliver the baby today. This life changing news was still registering, when more was dropped on us – we were at a level two neonatal unit, which wasn’t equipped to provide the support our baby would require on delivery. The staff phoned all the hospitals in London and there were no cots available, the nearest was outside London. Within an hour an ambulance arrived to ‘blue light’ us to the hospital, and we had to fight rush hour traffic round the M25.
On arrival we were quickly reassessed, the procedure was explained to us and we were rushed into the delivery theatre. At 8.48pm our beautiful little girl Quinn arrived, weighing 1lb 4oz, about the size of my hand. Once the amazing team had worked their magic in the theatre she was taken straight to NICU. We got a glimpse of her face as she was wheeled out of the door.
Then the rollercoaster ride really started. Quinn spent five weeks in NICU, then a further seven weeks at our local hospital. There were good days and bad days, tears of sadness, tears of joy and worries for the future for Quinn and our little family. We didn’t know anything about having a premature baby and didn't have any friends who had been through anything similar. It was an extremely lonely time for us even with support from close family and friends. After 12 weeks in hospital we were finally given the news we had been desperate to hear for so long, we could take our little girl home.
We were over the moon that this day was actually happening but also scared at the prospect of being entirely responsible for Quinn’s care. Up to that point we had been reliant on the support of the excellent nurses, doctors and consultants. Getting her home was one thing, but as well as all the usual new born attention, she would need to be attached to an oxygen cylinder 24 hours a day and we didn't have much of an idea of the potential problems Quinn might face in the future.
Bliss made the whole journey easier. Reading stories of other families who had been through similar experiences to us were comforting and a reminder that we were not alone. But most of all, they gave us hope for the future. Six long months later, numerous blood tests, sleep studies, appointments and bumps in the road, Quinn was finally off oxygen!
With our world slowly getting settled into a new routine on New Year’s Day 2013, my wife and I decided to take the opportunity to make a change. We went on a diet and gave up drinking for January. With the new arrival, our lives had changed and our priorities with it. Impromptu nights out disappeared from the calendar and ‘planning ahead’ became the norm. We both followed a strict diet which had helped a couple of friends lose a lot of weight. Tipping the scales at 18st 3lbs on day one was a bit of a shock – even after an over indulgent Christmas. I lost five pounds in the first week and never looked back. By the end of July I had shed five stone. I didn’t have a particular target weight in mind initially and if I had set out to lose 5st, I never would have. Shortly after I started focusing on trying to maintain and exercise.
Although I love sport and have built a career in sports marketing, running was something that I had never enjoyed, or more accurately – had actively avoided – but there was a group of colleagues that used to go out running at lunchtime from time to time and they encouraged me to join them, which eventually I did (although I couldn’t keep up!). My running mantra became: “If you’re struggling, slow down but never stop.” That seemed to work and slowly – very slowly, I chipped away and improved bit by bit. I got to the point in August 2015 where I believed that with some serious training, now was the time to do something and do my bit to give something back to one of the charities that supported us in a very dark time. So here I am taking on my first (and only!) Marathon, The Virgin Active London Marathon 2016 for Bliss. I’m training hard to beat the magic four hour mark, which is certainly ambitious - but with training progressing quite well, as long as I remain injury free, I should have a good chance of achieving my goal. Ticking off little milestone goals has kept me on track, my first 100km month, my first 50 mile week, 300km month etc. With all the training and giving up drinking from New Year I’m hoping to raise £4,000 for Bliss.
If you would like to support Gordon you can donate on his online fundraising page here: virginmoneygiving.com/GordonBaker
If you have a place in the marathon and would like to run for Bliss, get in touch with Charlotte by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 7378 1122.