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Grandma races to raise funds for charity that was there for daughter when son underwent lifesaving surgery

News   •   Aug 22, 2017 16:23 BST

Freddie was born with a condition called vanishing bowel syndrome and continues to be treated at Sheffield Children's Hospital.

The grandmother of a little boy who was born with just 10cm of bowel is getting ready to take on her first half marathon to raise money for The Sick Children’s Trust.

Ros Williams, 44 from Pontefract, will race in the Great North Run on Sunday 10 September to raise money for The Sick Children’s Trust. The charity, which runs free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation for families with seriously ill children in hospital, supported Ros’ daughter, Natasha, when her son was born with a rare condition and needed lifesaving treatment at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

At three months pregnant, Natasha (then 21 years old) was told that her baby, Freddie, may be born a condition called gastroschisis – where his bowel would be on the outside of his body – and that he would need emergency surgery at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Ten weeks before his due date Natasha unexpectedly went into labour but managed to drive 50 miles from her home in Doncaster to Jessop’s Maternity Hospital in Sheffield where she gave birth to her son, who weighed just over 3lbs.

At the hospital, it was discovered thatFreddie’s bowel was not on the outside of his body, but the hole of which it had been coming out of had closed around the bowel on the outside which caused it to disintegrate. The condition is extremely rare and known as vanishing bowel syndrome (or ‘closed gastroschisis, leading to vanishing midgut and extreme short bowel’). It left Freddie with just 10cm of his bowel remaining and fighting for his life. The condition is extremely serious and has a mortality rate as high as 70%.

At just one day old, he underwent a four hour intense operation at the specialist hospital to help him survive. Ros, who works as a Commercial Estimator, says:

“The marvellous surgeons and nurses ensured that Freddie was well looked after but Natasha had no idea just how long he’d be in Sheffield Children’s Hospital for. But she did know that it could be for months.

“I was really concerned – not only about my newest grandson but also my eldest daughter, who at 22 years old, is still my baby. I didn’t know how she would cope with the stress of her newborn being in hospital – not to mention a hospital 50 miles away from home.”

For two weeks while Freddie remained in Jessop’s Maternity Hospital, Natasha was provided with hospital accommodation, but as Freddie began to get stronger and was moved to Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s neonatal surgical unit she was given keys to Magnolia House run by The Sick Children’s Trust, adjacent to the high dependency wards. Ros adds:

“My worries were eased slightly when she told me that the hospital had offered her a flat in Sheffield while Freddie recovered, but I was still worried about her as she was in a city, far away from home, all alone.

“Once Freddie was out of intensive care and moved to the neonatal surgical unit, Natasha was offered a place in Magnolia House. When I went to visit I was astonished to find out that this wonderful home, along with the charity’s other ‘Home from Home’ in Sheffield, Treetop House, was not run by the hospital but by a charity called The Sick Children’s Trust. A charity which relies entirely on voluntary donations.

“Magnolia House, and later Treetop House, was a ‘Home from Home’ for Natasha. It was a safe environment to stay in while she bonded with Freddie and it was a place she could also bring his brother and sister to stay. She was able to visit Freddie anytime, night or day, without having to leave the safety of the house and hospital. She was able to mix with other families that understood her grief and anguish better than anyone else. For me, this was a burden lifted and an immense relief to know she was safe and secure.”

Freddie, who is now six months old, has been in hospital ever since he was born and continues to undergo treatment. Ros continues:

“Because of the support The Sick Children’s Trust has given my daughter, I want to raise awareness and money for this cause. It would’ve been easy to donate, would’ve been easy to hold a coffee morning but I wanted to do something that in years to come Freddie would know was a sacrifice for me, something that pushed me outside of my comfort zone as he has been pushed out of his!

“I used to run but then had reconstructive surgery on my ankle. However I am now training for my first half marathon and I intend to do my grandson proud. If he can endure numerous surgeries and scares and still come through looking adorable then I am sure I can run 13.1miles. I will take my strength from his example and my daughter’s as they have both gone through so much in such a short space of time.”

The Sick Children’s Trust runs ten ‘Homes from Home’ across the country supporting families with seriously ill children in hospital. In Yorkshire, alongside the two ‘Homes from Home’ in Sheffield, the charity supports families at Leeds General Infirmary at its Eckersley House. Ann Wyatt, Magnolia and Treetop House Manager, says:

“When a child is seriously ill in hospital, it’s vital that their family close by. Freddie is a little fighter and doing so well, and we are glad we could be there for his Mum Natasha when she needed us.

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to Ros and all her friends and family for supporting The Sick Children’s Trust. As a charity we rely completely on voluntary donations to keep our houses running, it costs £30 to support a family for one night. So by taking on the Great North Run for The Sick Children’s Trust not only will Ros complete a huge personal challenge, she will be raising vital awareness and funds for the charity.”

To support Ros, please visit:

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