‘Lightning’ strikes a chord as tragic baby inspires run

BORN prematurely at just 25 weeks, tiny Elijah Halse brought joy to parents Jenny and James and his young brothers Jonah, six, and Amos, three.

Jonah, six, and Amos, three.

But although his initial prognosis was good, Elijah died at 37 days old as a result of necrotising entercolitis (NEC), an inflammation of the bowel seen in premature babies.

Eight months on the Halse family are coming to terms with their loss and are channelling some of their energies into raising money for children’s charity Action Medical Research, which is funding research to develop a new test to help identify babies with the bowel condition.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The couple, from Meersbrook in Sheffield, signed up to run their local Percy Pud 10k and invited friends and family to take part. And the response, they say, has been staggering. At the last count, 51 people have agreed to run and their fund-raising target has climbed to £10,000.

The couple are preparing for an emotional day when Team Lightning takes on the 10k on Sunday December 1 for Action Medical Research – “Lightning” is the nickname given to Elijah by one of his brothers when he was born, reflecting the speed in which he entered the world.

Such has been the support that a separate team will be taking on an alternative 10k event in Oxfordshire. And still offers of help are coming in.

One runner, Jack Houghton, a close friend of the family, has just completed a 50-mile Dusk ‘til Dawn Ultra Marathon in the Peak District in aid of their cause.

For Mrs Halse, 36, a speech and language therapist, the support has been overwhelming.

“People feel helpless and desperately sad and want to help,” she said. “When you come home people are limited in how they can support you. We asked a very casual question: ‘Does anyone want to run?’”

The family’s call was answered by neighbours, friends, work colleagues and family members.

“Some people who have never run before are going to run and some people are coming from my book club,” says Mrs Halse.

“The staff showed incredible compassion and people skills which made me proud to work for the NHS.

“Elijah was extremely premature. We got to hold him three or four times in the 37 days. At first he was looking good but then we got the call to say he was fighting for his life. The signs of NEC are incredibly difficult to spot. He had 84cms of his intestine removed. A huge team of people gave him every opportunity.”

His brothers were allowed to hold and cuddle him shortly before Elijah’s death.

Both were “thrilled and excited” to hold him, says Mrs Halse. Since their brother’s death Amos has shown a matter-of-fact approach to what happened but his big brother is more sensitive and reflective. “We are incredibly lucky to have them – they drag your forward,” she says about her two boys.

“We have had help and advice and have been honest with them. If we don’t talk to them they might imagine death to horrible but we don’t want them to get that fear. We have a friend who gave us great advice.”

Of those runners for charity, 29 come from Meersbrook, Sheffield, and many have little or no running experience.

“Running is a way of channelling some of the emotion and energy that James and I have into something positive,” Mrs Halse added. “Elijah is buried at Wisewood cemetery in the Loxley Valley, very close to the start of the Percy Pud. While I wish we didn’t have this reason to visit the Loxley Valley, it is a beautiful place. The Percy Pud is a fitting race to run for Elijah.”

For more information or to lend your support visit the Team Lightning fund-raising page www.action.org.uk/sponsor/teamlightning; for more information on the charity visit: www.action.org.uk/nec; or see the family’s blog at jameshalse.wordpress.com/