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Runner thanks hospital for care of niece as baby taking on marathon and raising £1,000

A grateful runner raised £1,000 by completing her first marathon to thank a hospital trust for the care her baby niece received after birth.

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Sarah Smeilus and Poppy

Sarah Smeilus, 34, from Telford, ran the full Chester Marathon to raise funds for The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust Charity.

Her niece Poppy was born unconscious and not breathing but was revived after treatment in the neonatal unit at New Cross Hospital.

Sarah wants her fundraising effort to go the same ward, to help babies in a similar condition.

“My motivation for the fundraising centred around my niece,” said Sarah, who has a five-year-old daughter herself.

“Poppy was born in February 2021 at Walsall Manor Hospital after a healthy pregnancy – there was no particular illness or condition.

"But somewhere during the induction and subsequent birth, Poppy ‘died’.

“After resuscitation Poppy was transferred to the neonatal unit at New Cross where she received cooling therapy treatment.”

This reduces the baby’s core temperature to 33-34C to slow the swelling in the brain and limit the extent of any brain damage to babies who have suffered asphyxiation during birth.

Poppy spent a week at New Cross before returning to Walsall Manor for ongoing care.

Sarah and the family are eternally grateful for the care she received.

“The care my niece and her parents received was fantastic,” said Sarah.

“Without that treatment it would have been a very different outcome – Poppy could have been left severely brain damaged and her prospects would have been a lot different.

“Poppy is doing brilliantly and meeting all her expected milestones – this wouldn’t have been possible without the treatment she received in those early days.

“The treatment was successful and helped her develop and thrive into a cheeky and mischievous two-year-old and she was recently discharged from the consultant’s care.”

It was thoughts of Poppy, who lives with her two older sisters and parents Nicki and James – Sarah’s brother – in Streetly, that inspired Sarah during those gruelling final miles before she finished the 26.2-mile course in four hours, 30 minutes.

“Having a cause close to the my heart certainly kept me going in those last few miles when I wanted to give up,” said Sarah, who has been running for 10 years and works at Staffordshire University.

“I’ve completed many half marathons and always wanted to complete a marathon but didn’t realise how mentally tough it would be. I decided to finally take the plunge to raise money for the ward that looked after Poppy.

“I trained religiously for 16 weeks, following a structured plan, and completed distances greater than before – the longest run was 20 miles. Yet I still wasn’t quite prepared for how physically and mentally tough it would be.

“It felt amazing and it ended with me crossing the line in tears – mainly happy I could stop running. It was an emotional day, filled with lots of gratitude for the wonderful work NHS nurses and midwives provide.

“Hopefully the money raised will help fund the same treatment and care for other babies in Poppy’s situation.”

Sarah Crowshaw, neonatal ward manager at RWT, said: “The neonatal unit is extremely grateful for the kind donation of £1,000.

“Sarah has shown great compassion for completing the marathon and raising the donation. We will support with purchase of items for our unit, babies or families with any requests from Poppy’s family.

“We are always pleased to hear how babies who have been in our care have developed and thrived since being discharged. This donation will be a great support to our babies and families that experience our service.”

Amanda Winwood, RWT charity development manager, added: “We’re delighted to see that Poppy has made a full recovery and is a healthy two-year-old.

“Thanks to Sarah’s outstanding fundraising efforts, more babies born like Poppy can now benefit from the sort of care she received.”

The family has long-lasting ties with RWT, as James and Sarah’s mum Sue Roskell was a midwife at New Cross Hospital for 39 years, and all three of her children were born at the hospital.

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