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Tom takes on double marathon challenge


A man from Dundry, who has never run a marathon before, is planning to run two in two weeks next month, in a bid to raise £4000 for a charity very close to his heart, Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF). Tom Barker, 38 will be joined by wife, Rachael 37, brother Lucas and his girlfriend Lucy, both 29, when he does the Paris Marathon on April 7. Two weeks later, he and Lucas will also be running the London Marathon.

The family fundraising challenge is prompted by a sudden and serious trauma suffered by  Tom and Rachael’s daughter, Clara, two years ago when she was just two.

“It all happened incredibly quickly,” says Rachael. “Clara was at nursery and I got a call from them saying they’d noticed the tops of her legs looked a bit yellow when they were changing her nappy. I took her straight to our GP who advised we head to the Emergency Department at Bristol Children’s. We spend a night in HDU at Bristol Children’s where they took many blood tests while at the same time having conversations with the liver team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital where we were transferred the following day.  There, doctors told us they believed that Clara was suffering from acute liver failure. Two days later she was listed for transplant and six days later, she received her new liver. If she’d had to wait any longer, she may not be here with us today.

“We had no idea that small healthy children could suffer from liver failure but to be honest, everything happened so quickly, there was just no time to get our heads around this. We were on the liver ward in Birmingham when we started to take in what had happened and learn more about it. It was there where the hospital staff told us about Children’s Liver Disease Foundation. The charity provided information which helped us understand what this meant for Clara  and we also called them a couple of times for advice and support. In those early days it was a struggle to take in just what had happened to our family.

“We stayed at Birmingham Childrens for eight weeks and only managed two weeks at home before Clara was admitted again as it looked like her body might be rejecting her new liver. Thankfully this was caught early enough and was able to be treated. Everyone told us the first six months after transplant would be really hard but at times it felt impossible. In truth, it was about a year before we started to get used to our new way of life.

“After a year of relative stability and seeing Clara live the life we all hoped she’d be able to, it felt like time to give something back and raise awareness of children’s liver disease.  Tom, Lucas and Lucy decided they’d like to run the London Marathon for CLDF but after being unsuccessful in the ballot, thought they’d give Paris a try. It was at that stage I had a rush of blood to the head and said I’d join them! So we started our training plan and a few weeks later had a call from CLDF to say that a couple of charity places had become available. It was too good an opportunity to miss, so now all four of us are running the Paris marathon and Tom and Lucas are doing London two weeks later. If this  makes us sound like experienced marathon runners, we’re definitely not. We’ve  done bits of running in the past but never this far!

“I have to admit that marathon training is tough, especially when it’s wet and cold outside. I just keep thinking that we got through the absolute worst time in lives so we can get through this. It’s just one foot in front of the other with the help of podcasts and lots of jelly babies!

“Fundraising has been going well – people have been so generous and we’ve already smashed our £4,000 target. Knowing that we’ll be helping other families who’ve been through our experience is a real motivator so we just want to raise as much as we can. Hopefully, seeing us so far outside our comfort zone will prompt people to donate.”

Michelle Wilkins, Head of Services at 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 on voluntary donations, so we are delighted to hear about this amazing effort from the Barker family, especially Tom and Lucas! It’s great to hear that Clara is now doing well. Her family’s fantastic fundraising will enable us to continue to be there for her and for other children like her in the future.”

You can support Tom, Rachael, Lucas and Lucy by  going to Thomas Barker is fundraising for Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (

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