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Father’s 250-mile challenge for NICU which saved his son

A father of a six-year-old boy is taking on a formidable challenge to raise money for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where his son spent the first week of his life.

Henry Hume was born at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in March 2013 following what had been a routine pregnancy for mum, Justina and dad Tom as they waited for the birth of their first child.

However, things quickly took an unexpected turn for the worse and baby Henry was rushed to NICU with persistent pulmonary hypertension which is a failure of the normal circulatory transition that occurs after birth.

Now, Tom, who is a vet and director at Westover Veterinary Centre, and his business partner Toby, an experienced triathlete, plan to run, cycle, swim and canoe about 250 miles starting on July 11 to raise money for NICU as a thank you to the staff on the unit for caring for Henry who is now a happy and healthy six year old.

Tom, from Thurning, near Briston, explained how joy quickly turned to fear following the birth of his son: “In layman’s terms, Henry’s lungs hadn’t inflated so his blood kept choosing the easy route, through the hole in the heart that all babies are born with, but in the process it was bypassing the lungs and circulating around his body without being re-oxygenated.

“Being a vet I had some limited understanding of the numbers on the intensive care monitors.

“The figure that I will never forget is the level of his oxygen saturation. In animals, anything less than 98% is abnormal and below 90% we would be pretty worried. I am fairly sure the numbers are similar in human medicine and I was watching as Henry’s number fell and fell, eventually bottoming out at 45%.

“The NICU team were incredible, there were five of them crowded around this tiny baby. He was too small to get intravenous access via his arms so they had to cannulate his umbilical vessels to establish IV access.

“He was then anaesthetised and placed in a coma to allow them to mechanically ventilate and inflate his lungs.”

Henry was in the coma for a week, but slowly the support machines were withdrawn and he went from strength to strength.”

Tom said: “We will both be eternally grateful for the lifesaving care in the first six hours after his arrival and then ongoing during that week.

“Ever since that day I have wanted to raise money for NICU to show my appreciation for such an incredible service and also to try and help their resources and enable them to help others.”

Tom and Toby will take on some huge challenges after setting off on July 11:

Day 1 – set off from North Walsham, run seven miles to Aylsham before swimming eight miles of the River Bure to Coltishall where they will camp for the night.

Day 2 – canoe 35 miles from Coltishall to Yarmouth.

Day 3 – cycle of 130 miles to Hunstanton.

Day 4 – run 30 miles from Hunstanton to Stiffkey.

Day 5 – run 30 miles back to North Walsham.

Tom said: “The biggest challenge in training has been getting enough time to get the miles in. I have come to the conclusion that it will be ‘alright on the night’ and that my memories of Henry’s battle to survive will be all the motivation I need to keep my moving.”

In the past, money raised for NICU has helped to pay for incubators, kangaroo chairs for parents and babies, enabled us to enhance the environment and also provided specialist training for staff.

If you would like to sponsor Tom and Toby and support NICU, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/toby-and-tom-westover-vets

LynnFather’s 250-mile challenge for NICU which saved his son