ELLIE White needed surgery within hours of birth – and her anxious parents struggled to come to terms with the prospect of their longed-for daughter needing constant medical treatment and then dying young.
Yet, days later, tests gave Ellie the all-clear. And nine months on, she is happy, healthy and full of life.
Parents Chris and Anna, of Halfway, could not believe their luck: “It was the ultimate ‘get out of jail free’ card,” says Chris, head of events for Sheffield University students’ union.
And this weekend they will show their support for others who are not so fortunate by undertaking the gruelling Three Peaks Challenge to raise money for the Children’s Hospital, Sheffield.
The nightmare began for Chris and Anna immediately after Ellie was born last October.
“She had serious complications at birth, and bowel surgery within her first 24 hours. The surgeons diagnosed a meconium ileus and told us this was a sure sign of cystic fibrosis,” recalls Chris.
“It was all quite a shock. We were devastated at the thought of what Ellie would experience – the ways in which the illness would limit her life and the impact this would have on the rest of our family.”
They talked over the implications of the disease and how it might affect son Noah, then not yet two. “We accepted it was something we’d have to live with forever; it would completely change our lives.”
But then came the result of tests which went against all medical expectations. Ellie would need further surgery and several months in hospital but with care and support there was no reason why she should not lead a perfectly normal life.
“It was amazing – we were literally speechless,” says Chris. “We obviously feel incredibly lucky. It’s hard to even think back to the days of Ellie’s diagnosis. The importance of the health and life of our children is unquantifiable. We are so thankful to have avoided having our lives changed by CF.”
The couple began thinking how they could show their appreciation to the medical staff who supported the family through that difficult time and hit on the idea of raising funds for the hospital’s specialist cystic fibrosis unit.
Neither of them had done anything like that before; they had not even been hill walking for years. But over the last few months they have gradually built up their fitness levels, including taking part in the 10k run at Chatsworth in May.
On Saturday, they set out to climb the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales within 24 hours. They aim to start at 7am at the foot of Ben Nevis, followed by Scafell Pike and then Snowden in the early hours of Sunday.
They expect to take 14 hours to climb the peaks – walking 25 miles and climbing a total of 10,000 feet – leaving ten hours to drive the 450 miles, with friend Matt Galvin acting as chauffeur.
Chris and Anna are looking forward to the challenge: “We wanted to do something that will, in some small way, help improve the treatment and care of children with CF.”
Already the couple have twice smashed their target: first topping £1,000 and then £1,500. The current total stands at more than £2,000 and they are now aiming for £2,500.
lVisit www.justgiving.com/chrisand annawhite