Richie & Kodie's Story
In May 2018, we were at a family party at a barn near to home. The grown-ups were inside enjoying some drinks, and the younger ones were doing their usual running around the grounds of the venue. Our son Kodie, who was 3 and a half at the time came up to us with very swollen eyes, and the bridge of his nose had almost disappeared. He was very upset and distressed and was frantically rubbing his eyes. We were not sure what was happening, and my first thought was it was hay fever, as the venue had quite a large garden with plenty of flowers.
I decided to try and take Kodie for a drive to calm him down and get him away from the situation. After 10 minutes of driving around I headed home and asked Liz to come and meet me. The swelling was getting worse, and Kodie was becoming hysterical. When Liz arrived, she said we should take him to hospital, so we took him to the nearby emergency unit, and the doctor diagnosed an allergic reaction, that was in progress, but had calmed down and give us some medicine to control the reaction. Sometime later, someone from the party called to see how we were, and they said they saw Kodie eating peanuts from a bowl at the party.
Since that day, our lives have changed. The initial anxiety of not knowing what the exact trigger was, not having access to the correct medicine going forward, not really understanding the situation, took over our lives. The next few weeks consisted of constant googling, emailing, researching, using forums, and then chasing hospital appointments to get some clarity and clear diagnosis. The question of, 'will Kodie be able to live a normal life.', often kept Liz awake at night and in floods of tears.
Kodie then had some tests, and the results confirmed he was allergic to peanuts, mixed nuts, cats, dogs and grass. Although we had a diagnosis, the anxiety didn't stop. The cupboards were cleaned out, every label checked, including in our closest family and friends’ kitchens. Party invites were declined in fear of Kodie eating something that may contain. EpiPen’s are carried everywhere with us, as a way of life now.
The two most particularly stressful events were our first family holiday flying to Turkey, and when Kodie started school in September. The anxiety and worry involved in both those events was huge. We fear that we come across as 'over the top' or 'overreacting' when asking for the seats to be cleaned on the plane or ensuring all of the teachers in the school are aware. We were at times very demanding, but we needed to be that way, when giving others the responsibility to look after our son. As parents we are his safety net, able to step in when people offer him food or a snack, but when we are not there, that's where the worry sets in.
When we were going about our daily lives, we realised that the awareness is just not out there as much as it should be, and the attitude of some parents, is a careless, selfish one when complaining to the school that their kid isn't allowed Nutella on their sandwich.
Whenever we looked back to the day of the party, we always say what if something worse had happened. We didn't have a clue about allergies, and there was nothing to hand that could have helped. Liz came up with the idea that EpiPen’s should be available in public places, to help in an emergency. She started a petition which got some great coverage across the whole country, was featured on the local BBC news and we had over 13,000 signatures and a written response from the government that they would debate it. However, Brexit happened, then a general election and the current situation with COVID-19 also meant that it was closed down.
We wanted to continue to raise awareness, and that's where the marathon idea came from. I do a lot of running, I'm a coach, and lead a running club, but I never run for charity. To celebrate my 40th birthday, which fell in the same month as the London Marathon’s 40th, I decided I was going to enter and raise money for charity. I emailed Allergy UK to see if I could run for them, and when Stuart replied and informed me they only had the one place left, I put a massive plan of activity together to secure that place. It was a no brainer for me to choose Allergy UK as it is a cause very close to my heart, and in a way, Allergy UK chose me to be their representative.
My fundraising plan was all along the theme of 40, to celebrate turning 40. I've pledged to compete in 40 events in 2020, run the 40th London Marathon, also the 40th Great North Run. I have a plan to run between 40 Tesco stores across Kent, equivalent of four marathons in four days, and finish with a 40-mile ultra-run in December.
The plan is still growing as others have added ideas too, like running a 40-minute 10k. As the London Marathon has been postponed, I ran 40 lengths of a road near my house to complete a solo marathon. We have also created our own 'run for Kodie' virtual run, with our own medal of Kodie.
It’s been great how our family and friends have got involved too, and some of Kodie’s friends have also raised some money for Allergy UK by doing the 2.6 challenge. The medals we had made for this are really good. My wife Liz was also due to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon but that too was cancelled. My other sons, Connor (11), Callum (13) and Dillon (14) are looking to climb Snowdon too when we can travel to complete the challenge.
Although events have been paused for now, I’m continuing to run some virtual events to continue to get to 40 by the end of the year, and hopefully London will still go ahead.