A dad whose son was born prematurely and with a rare genetic disorder is running from Glasgow to Aberdeen – the equivalent of six non-stop marathons – to raise money for two charities close to his heart.
Andrew Smith, 29, hopes to raise £50,000 for Ronald McDonald House Glasgow and The Archie Foundation, which are also the start and end points of his challenge this summer.
Baby Louie was born on September 9, arriving 12 weeks early and weighing 3lb 7oz, taking his dad and mum Nancie Mead , 23, by surprise.
Louie’s early birth and diagnosis
The couple, of Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, had previously moved to Israel with Andrew’s work as operations manager for Score Israel Valve Services. On a return holiday to visit family in the UK, Nancie went to hospital with back pain, which was initially thought to be a urinary tract infection.
In fact, she was in labour and when Louie was born he was cared for in the neonatal unit at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital.
While there, he began to have frequent apnoea episodes, which caused a sudden cessation of breathing that lasted for at least 20 seconds.
Andrew said: “Louie had several procedures including an MRI scan, blood tests, CT scans and x-rays, checking for obstructions in his respiratory system.
“One of his consultants noticed Louie making involuntary movements, which was one of the factors that led to us undergoing genetic testing to see if that could help to explain Louie’s condition. ”
At just seven weeks old, Louie was flown to the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, for surgery on his windpipe to try to reduce his apnoea. The family spent two weeks in the hospital, with Andrew and Nancie being provided with accommodation in Ronald McDonald House Glasgow, an independent Scottish charity with no government funding.
It was when they were in Glasgow that the couple learned Louie has a rare genetic disorder, thought to affect less than 100 people in the world. Neither parent carries the mutated gene.
Andrew, who is originally from Fraserburgh, said: “We were under the impression that the surgery would be the cure to his apnoea, so the diagnosis was a huge shock.
“He will have some additional challenges or require regular visits to the children’s hospital over the coming months and years, but he’s a healthy, thriving wee boy who is alert and gaining weight.
“He recognises the sound of his mum and dad’s voices, waking up when he hears us talking on the ward.”
After a move to the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, Andrew and Nancie hope to be able to take Louie home soon and settle into family life.
36-hour charity run challenge
Andrew decided that simply making a donation was not be enough to repay the support the couple has received from the charities.
While running along the River Clyde when Louie was in hospital in Glasgow, the dad came up with the idea for his challenge.
He will leave Ronald McDonald House Glasgow at 7am on Saturday June 1 and run the equivalent of six marathons back-to-back, finishing at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital around 36 hours later.
The journey will be some 165 miles, with a route likely to take in Glasgow, Stirling, Perth, Dundee, Montrose, Arbroath, Stonehaven and Aberdeen.
He plans to run it in one go, with food stops on the way and micro naps at the side of the road, but no overnight stops.
He said: “I have always had ambitions to push my own limits and my longest run to date is 100 miles of the Moray Way, which I completed in 21 hours 30 minutes.”
He will be supported by his training partner Jamie Pallister and coach Meryl Cooper, as well as family and friends.
He added: “We are overwhelmingly grateful to both The Archie Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Glasgow for all the kindness and care they have given Louie and us.
“Families rely on the kindness and generosity of the charities. Not once were we asked for anything and both charities gave us a safe space on hospital grounds.”
Charity donations from run challenge
The proceeds from Andrew’s run will be split equally between The Archie Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Glasgow.
Paula Cormack, chief executive of The Archie Foundation, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Andrew for taking on such an ambitious and amazing fundraising challenge.
“Our share of the proceeds will go directly to supporting other babies, children and their families at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital and the neonatal unit where Louie has been cared for. We wish Andrew lots of luck with the run in June.”
Ken Simpson, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Glasgow, said: “Thanks to the generosity of fantastic supporters like Andrew we can keep our door open and keep families together when it matters most.
“We want to thank Andrew for taking on such an ambitious and inspiring fundraising challenge. The money that Andrew raises through his challenge will allow us to support families from across Scotland and further afield enabling them to stay close to their seriously ill child. We want to wish Andrew all the very best for his challenge.”
See Go Fund Me to support Andrew and find out more about his charity run.