Graham Keith will spend his 47th birthday next weekend (April 22) pounding the streets of London with thousands of others in the Marathon, but it’s all in a very good cause. His birthday challenge has so far has raised over £4,000 for a charity which means a great deal to his family, Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF).
“My niece, Rosin, was just eight when she was diagnosed with two rare liver diseases, auto-immune liver disease and primary sclerosing cholangitis,” explains Graham, who is originally from Newmachar in Aberdeenshire but now lives in Lasswade. “At the time, my sister and brother in law knew nothing about childhood liver disease but were given information about CLDF by Roisin’s consultant. They decided to go along to one of their events where they met other families in a similar situation and I know they found this very helpful.
“A few years’ later Roisin, who lives in Glasgow, went away on a camping trip with CLDF where, as well as having a lot of fun, the youngsters were encouraged to discuss how it was for them having to deal with a liver condition, medications and multiple hospital visits as well as all the other trials of early teenage years. The safe environment created by CLDF staff allowed Roisin to express how she was feeling and share coping strategies with the others there. She came home with a new support network, full of optimism and a renewed resilience about dealing with the future. Roisin met another girl, of a similar age, from Scotland on the camp. They both kept in touch and met up with each other from time to time. This friendship was extremely important when their health deteriorated and they both had to face the transplant journey within a year of each other.
“Since Roisin’s liver transplant in September 2016, she has been away with CLDF again, this time making a film about her liver journey. Again, the peer support was invaluable. Teenage years are difficult enough without adding to the mix frequent medical appointments, having to drop activities that you love, time off school, falling behind on vital exam work and lifesaving surgery. Being with others who are or have been in a similar situation, sharing experiences with them was very important.
“Now she is 17, Roisin is moving from the familiar setting of the children’s hospital services to the big unknown adult set up. She is also finishing secondary school and looking at college and university courses. Again, CLDF have been supporting her through this, putting her in touch with others in their late teens or early 20s who are going or have been through similar transitions.
“Roisin is doing well 18 months post- transplant and we hope that this continues. The medical care she has received both at Leeds General and Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children have been fantastic. However, I don’t think Roisin would be in such a positive place, physically and mentally right now, if it hadn’t been for the support and opportunities given to her and us as a family, by CLDF.
“I decided to run the London Marathon while I was watching last year’s race on television. I called Roisin during the coverage and asked her if she would like me to run this year for CLDF. She immediately replied that she would love me to on the proviso that she could come and cheer me on and go shopping of course! I have run one marathon before – Edinburgh in 2013. This will be special however as it’s my birthday and I plan on celebrating in style once I cross the finish line!
“Training has gone well despite the long winter and I have had a tremendous response to my fundraising. I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me and will do my best to do everyone proud next Sunday.”
Alison Taylor, Chief Executive of Children’s Liver Disease Foundation commented: “CLDF is the only UK charity dedicated to fighting all childhood liver diseases, by providing information and emotional support, funds for research and a voice for all those affected. In order to do this however, we rely almost entirely on voluntary donations, so we are delighted that Roisin has inspired Graham to do the London Marathon for us. It’s a huge commitment and he has done brilliantly with his fundraising. It will certainly be a birthday to remember and we shall be there to cheer him on!”
You can support Graham’s London Marathon challenge by going to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/graham-keith.