A doctor whose son was born three-and-a-half months prematurely is running the London Marathon on Sunday to raise funds for research into pre-term births.
Dr Holly Lewis, 36, gave birth to Sebastian at 26 weeks’ gestation, when he weighed 890 grams (1lb 15oz). He spent 81 days in a neonatal unit, with Dr Lewis and husband James praying he would survive and escape serious disability.
Sebastian is now a happy and healthy four-year-old and his mother, an obstetrician and researcher, is raising cash for Genesis Research Trust which was founded by fertility expert Lord Winston in 1985. One in 10 births is premature. It is the biggest cause of death in under-fives and of cerebral palsy.
Dr Lewis, from Ealing, who works at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea hospital in Acton, said: “I will run 26.2 miles for my 26-weeker hero, Sebastian. Nothing can change what we went through but I want to do everything I can to stop it happening to other families.
“As an obstetrician I have always been very frustrated that there is very little we can do to help mums that come to hospital in pre-term birth. I had a totally normal pregnancy until 26 weeks and then suddenly I went into labour. From starting parenthood in hospital to eventually being discharged with our tiny fragile baby was hard. Although, on one hand, we felt incredibly lucky to be able to take him home, we were also petrified he would stop breathing again or catch an infection and have to return to intensive care.
“Without further research into pre-term birth, mums will continue to have babies born early.”
A man who was saved by London’s Air Ambulance when he was run over by a lorry when he was 11 is also running the marathon to help keep the capital’s two emergency helicopters in the air. Each mission costs the charity more than £1,500, and it responds to more than 2,000 incidents a year.
Matt Brown, 32, said: “Having suffered a fractured skull and been in intensive care, thankfully I was lucky enough to have made a full recovery.
“However, I have no doubt that I would not have been so fortunate if it was not for the excellent services provided by London’s Air Ambulance.”
Marathon organisers hope the race, now in its 37th year, will lead to a record-breaking time for the elite women. The current holder is Paula Radcliffe, who set 2:17:42 in 2005.
Runners will be waved off by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to mark the event being designated as the “mental health marathon” in a link with the royals’ Heads Together campaign working to end stigma surrounding mental health.
Roads will be closed across central London from 6am until 7pm, with buses terminating early and the DLR running an amended service.