High five as Wigan dad takes on sporting challenge after daughter's premature birth

A dad-of-two is taking on a massive sporting challenge to thank the unit that kept his daughter alive after her premature birth.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 7:00 am

James Hunter’s daughter Abigail spent five weeks on the neonatal unit at Wigan Infirmary after her birth on February 11.

To thank the staff for caring for her and to raise money, James has decided to take on five sporting challenges on World Prematurity Day.

He wanted to represent the difficulty of the five weeks she was in hospital, so will swim 1.5km, cycle 40km, run 10km, walk 2km and row 3km - a total of 56.5km or 35 miles.

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James Hunter with baby Abigail in hospital

James hopes to raise £3,500, which would equate to £100 for each day Abigail was in the neonatal unit, for the trust’s Three Wishes charity.

He said: “I am planning on swimming at the Wigan Life Centre, then walking to hospital, cycling to Walton Summit and back to Wigan Rugby Union Club. I will then start rowing on the rowing machine there and then run back to my house and then back up to the hospital.

“That will represent the journey I was doing every day from home to work to the hospital and back.”

The sporting challenge will honour what was a tough time for James and his family.

Abigail spent five weeks in hospital after her birth

His wife Emma said: “At my 32-week scan we found out that Abigail had stopped growing six to seven weeks earlier, which in turn led to her being born eight weeks early. Her due date was April 8, but she was born on February 11.

“I was given steroid injections at midday to help develop Abigail’s lungs and was then transferred straight to Wigan hospital.

“I was regularly checked by the doctors and midwives, as well as being connected to a monitor that measured Abigail’s heart.”

About Emma’s caesarean section, James said: “The whole procedure took about 30 minutes; I was amazed by the very skilled team performing the operation.

“One of the midwives had told me that if we hadn’t had the section that day, Abigail probably wouldn’t have survived another 48 hours. Someone was watching over us that day!”

Abigail weighed 2lb 4oz and James was able to visit after work during the week and at weekends, alongside spending time at home with his eldest daughter Ellie. But they did face restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “I was most concerned that I couldn’t bring Ellie in with me to meet her new baby sister. We took photos and I printed out one for Ellie, so that she can cuddle the photograph until she was able to meet Abigail in person.”

It was while they were in hospital that the couple chose Abigail as their baby daughter’s name.

James said: “It was meant to be. Abigail means ‘father’s joy’ and it was one of the first names we had considered.

“It was also a coincidence that her doctor’s name was Abigail and the lady from the communications and PR team was called Abigail - she helped us promote our story. We knew that it was meant to be.

“During our time on the NNU, we saw Abigail progress from intensive care to high dependency to special care and then from an incubator to an open cot.

“Throughout it all the doctors, nurses, midwives and neonatal staff provided excellent care for all of us. It was really tough as the restrictions were tighter than usual due to the pandemic, but they made sure to keep us up-to-date all the time, listen to any concerns and answer any questions we had.

“We would like to personally thank Dianne and Beth, who were the lead nurses, as well Lisa, Chloe, Jenny, Lynn, Alison, Emily and Dr Tin Win. Over the five weeks, every midwife and nurse probably looked after her at some point, so thank you very much.”

James will take on his sporting challenge on Wednesday, November 17, which is World Prematurity Day.

Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wigannnu

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