Friday, 18 November 2016

Eaton Park Science Day 2017 and Hyperemesis Gravidarum

My name is Jessica Suter, I am a 25-year-old mother in my penultimate year as science undergraduate with The Open University, and I am running the first ever science fest in the renowned Eaton Park, Norwich to celebrate British Science Week and raise money for PregnancySickness Support.

5 years ago I would never have thought of writing a blog post with such an introduction. As 5 years ago I was a promising public relations officer. Having set-up my own PR consultancy and it blossoming in its first year my (now fiancé) and I decided it was the right time to start a family. I could work from home and be around my family – seemed like a win-win. Very soon after trying we were blessed with a positive pregnancy test and had so much excitement for our future, but within a few days of the test my health dramatically declined.

By 6 weeks’ gestation, I found myself in hospital after a painstaking fortnight of being bedridden, vomiting stomach blood and unable to keep down any foods or liquids. My GP practice told me pregnancy sickness was normal in the first 12 weeks and advised ginger, sickness bands and bed rest. When my mother dropped by our home she took one look at me and I had never seen such horror on her face. She helped me into her car and took me straight to the Accident and Emergency unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. There, I was seen instantly and hooked up to intravenous vein fluids. I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum and was put under consultant-led care for the remainder of my pregnancy which I carried through on a cocktail of frequent hospital trips, vitamins and antiemetic’s, with the occasional mars ice-cream and a banana milkshake that I craved.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum didn’t just leave me feeling robbed of a pregnancy. It crippled by business - as I was no longer able to communicate without ending up violently shaking and vomiting (anything involving my senses did). It almost destroyed my relationship with my fiancé as I wasn’t able to have human contact and communication for months. It stole my confidence in my writing abilities which is all I felt I had, and it gave me painstaking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). However, I also gained a lot through this experience.

I found new friends online that I could share my feelings of disparity with and socially matured in a lot of respects. The bond I developed with my mother became stronger than it had ever been. The bond with my fiancé is now immeasurable and I became the mother that I never realised I could be to a child I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to raise.

After having my daughter, my entire world shifted for the better and in completely unexpected ways. I suddenly felt empowered, like I was able to make a difference. It was as if my mind and body screamed that getting through such a debilitating disease allowed me access to conquer the world. I felt that I could actually help to change the world, to create a brighter future for our daughter, as a scientist.

Having always aspired to be in the science profession, but lacking the confidence and education to do so I always put it on the back-burner. Once Sofia had arrived though it all changed. I realised that I no longer wanted to do work that didn’t inspire me or challenge me in the ways that I needed to be challenged, and I could never offer my daughter what it means to follow your dreams if I couldn’t even do that myself. The summer after she was born I dedicated any of my spare time to science and maths and in October 2014 I enrolled on an Open Degree in the sciences with The Open University.

Three years on and I have brought up a marvelous child full of life, almost graduated, and created Eaton Park Science Day to celebrate British Science Week and to inspire others to embrace the science around them and allow science to embrace them.

Eaton Park Science Day is a free family-friendly event being held on Saturday 11 March 2017 at the Eaton Park Community Centre during 9am and 12pm. After lunch, we will be running several activities on the park grounds including a fitness class and nature hunt.
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Tweet to us: @Eatonparksciday

Monday, 31 October 2016

In order to succeed you have to be prepared to fail

In my last post I wrote about the difficulties I was having in the build up to the Snowdonia Marathon.  In all honesty I thought it was very probable that I would have to drop out.   

Things actually got worse after I wrote that post – I came down with a cold which stopped me running for another precious week.  As an asthmatic who is prone to bad chest infections I just cannot run when ill.  I really thought it was the final straw.

I had already missed too much training to have any hope of running this marathon at anything like the speed I wanted to do it in.  And this led to a real dilemma for me.  I care about the times I do.  I’ve done some OK times at marathon distance, and my long term aim is to improve on those times.  I had wanted this marathon to demonstrate to me that I was running well enough for this to be possible in the next couple of years.  The injuries meant that the best I could hope for was to jog round.  I had to decide whether I was OK with that. 

An even bigger question I had to answer was how would I cope if I started the marathon and had to stop.  As I wrote in my original post, dropping out at 19 miles in the London marathon in 2011 had destroyed my running confidence for a long time and I did not want to go back there. 

I had to get well and try some running before I could answer these questions.

My cold lifted last Monday, 6 days before the race.  So I ran 6 miles as gently as I could.  The pain in my right glutes, hip and leg was still there.  Better than it had been but definitely there.  More worrying was the fact that I had no pace, the tightness in my muscles seemed to be affecting the way I was running.  If I was to have any hope of being on the start line I knew I had to try a longer run.  The weeks before a marathon are meant to be taper time, when you rest your body for the challenge ahead.  But last Wednesday, 4 days before the Snowdonia marathon, I ran 13 miles.   I had to do it, because if I couldn’t be sure my body would cope with a longer run then I couldn’t stand on that start line.   Again I shuffled slowly, but crucially the leg felt slightly better.

I decided that it was worth a gamble.  I had already grieved for the marathon time I had originally wanted.   I had cried a lot of tears over this race but I had come to the acceptance stage, where I knew that the run I had wanted was gone.  But I had answered my first question.  I would rather run it slowly than not at all.  The beautiful course at Snowdonia was part of the reason why, but also was the desperate desire to find a postitive in all the bad luck I had had, and to do this for PSS, the charity so close to my heart.   

So, question one answered.  But what if I dropped out?  Would it break my heart as much as last time?  In the end I decided no.  I was going into this race with my eyes wide open, fully aware that I might not finish it.   But I would rather try and fail than sit at home and always wonder what if. 

And so I finally decided, late on Wednesday, that I would go to Wales, stand on the start line and take it a mile at a time.  I would run nice and slowly and I would stop if I needed to, and I was OK with that.

I’m not exaggerating or being coy when I say that I started the race honestly not knowing if I could make it round.  I had missed so much training and my body seemed to have let me down so much at a crucial time, echoing lots of the emotions I had when I had had HG.   The plan was to run to half way and then run/walk as needed.  In fact I ran most of it.  I stopped to hug my precious daughters every time I saw them as they followed me round the course.  I stopped to take photos.  I chatted to other runners and to the marshals, and I walked for a bit on the infamous last steep hill.  But other than that, my body finally gave me a break and allowed me to run – and I finished it, a whole marathon – in Snowdonia!

I realise I have come a massively long way in my fitness journey just to be able to complete this brutal course.  There are three massive massive hills in this beautiful run.   And it’s 26.2 miles, which I can confirm is a really really long way!  I loved it.  It meant the world to be there, and I felt so lucky to be able to do it.

The finish line was really emotional.  So much tried to stop me on the way and it has actually made me realise that I am strong, not weak.  I didn't give up even when the odds were stacked against me and I am so so proud of myself.

I haven’t posted the link to my sponsorship page lately, mainly because I had no idea as to whether I would be able to do it.  But I did it.  And I am so proud of myself. PSS is a very deserving cause and remains close to my heart.  I thought about my pregnancies a lot during the run on Saturday, about how far I had come, and how lucky I am to have my beautiful girls.  I thought about the charity, and about the women I am currently supporting, and the very difficult journeys they are enduring.  And I hope that the work I do for PSS makes a difference to people, and I want the charity to grow and succeed in all it’s aims.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Snowdonia Marathon Update – As with HG, things don’t always go to plan…

I was blown away by the response I got to my piece about HG and running last month.  People said such wonderful, kind and inspiring things and I felt so proud to be doing this for the charity that is so close to my heart.

In a twist of fate, I had written the piece two days before I tore my hamstring whilst training with my running club.  I saw a Physio straight away and was relieved to be told that with two weeks’ rest it should be fine.  I confidently told PSS they could publish the piece and got myself busy doing strengthening exercises whilst cycling, swimming and rowing in the meantime.

As predicted, the hamstring was absolutely fine when I returned to running, but my running felt ‘clunky’ and not quite right.  I plodded on, hoping that it would all fall into place but last weekend my right leg (the opposite leg to the one I injured) became painful and I had to abandon a long run, something I cannot remember ever doing before.  It turns out I’ve been compensating – overusing the ‘good’ leg in a subconscious attempt to protect the ‘bad’ one – common in people coming back from injury but terrible timing for me.  It’s not particularly serious in itself and I’ve been doing some light running last week but I have missed a month of marathon training at a crucial time so any hope of my marathon comeback being something I am satisfied with is out of the window.

There is a chance I would be able to jog or run/walk around the course, but I need to have a think about whether that is the right thing for me physically and mentally and realistically I am going to have to make that decision fairly late in the day.  As it stands at the moment I think that sadly it looks more likely than not that I will have to drop out of the marathon.

I'm devastated on a personal level - this marathon meant an awful lot to me.  As I wrote in my original piece it has taken me a really long time to get my head into a position where I can attempt one, and to have it snatched away at the last minute through bad luck is bitterly disappointing.   I was really low last week.  The sadness echoed my feelings when I had HG, that my body had failed me.  It felt that matter how hard I tried I was unable to do something that I really wanted to do.   I contemplated just giving up, never running again.   But after a few sad days I have picked myself up and am feeling much more philosophical about it now. 

Obviously I am also disappointed because I was doing this sponsored for PSS and the charity means the world to me.  I feel like I’ve let the people who have already sponsored me down.  All I can say is that I am doing my best to still give Snowdonia a go on 29th October but if it isn't to be then I will definitely find a new challenge worthy of people’s sponsorship. 

I’ll keep you all posted….

Friday, 30 September 2016

24 hour live charity gaming event in aid of Pregnancy Sickness Support ... by Tom Howes

On 11th November 2016 I will be streaming Destiny on the PS4 for 24 hours, a live charity event on Twitch, with help from The Speakers Secret Stash clan mates and the community to join me along the way.

Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS) is aiming to raise money to place its leaflets in the Bounty packs that new parents are given at their first midwife appointment. This would give PSS the potential to reach every single mum-to-be in the UK with details of the support the charity can provide. This will ensure that more women struggling to cope with severe pregnancy sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum are able to access the vital support and treatment they need.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is not widely known but has serious consequences for a lot of women, their partners and families. HG affects only 1% of women with pregnancy sickness and is extremely unpleasant for sufferers. 1 in 100-150 women will be admitted to hospital due to the severity of their condition. It is a severe and potentially life threatening condition which can have a profound effect on the sufferer's health and well being.

Families have been torn apart because they simply cannot cope with seeing their partner so severely unwell. There are cases where the sickness is so bad that women  end up tearing their oesophagus and having to have it rebuilt.

My partner was diagnosed with Hyperemises Gravidarum.

A large part of her pregnancies were spent in hospital, being on a constant drip allowing rehydration and medicine. This was an extremely challenging time for our family, one I cannot even begin to describe. My partner was bed bound up to the last few weeks of pregnancy, when she was only able to move downstairs. I cannot even recall how many ambulances we had called to the house. We really struggled and were moments away from termination.

Pregnancy Sickness Support runs a national support network for women suffering any degree of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, to access support and comfort at times of isolation and distress.

My partner received advice and spoke to women who have been through exactly the same thing as she was going through. This provided the massive support we needed. Without help from Pregnancy Sickness Support our family would not be what it is today.

Please sponsor me to enable me to give something back to the charity that did so much for Me, Tori, Honor, Hope and Ted.

You can donate by texting NOHG16 £amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070 or via my sponsorship page - please click here. Thank you.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

HG, running and me by Claire

Running a marathon takes a lot of training.  But it also needs strength, determination and a strong self belief.    So what happens to a runner who is so ill in her pregnancies that she loses all that strength and self belief?

Between 2002 and 2008 I ran 8 marathons.  I loved the distance, and really believed that any physical challenge was just mind over matter.  Mental toughness was something I excelled at, and totally took for granted.

I fully intended to continue running during pregnancy. In my first pregnancy at the first sign of what I naively termed ‘morning sickness’ I went for a run – I’d read that exercise helps ease sickness.  I found myself plodding around a so-called easy route, throwing up in bushes.  I gave up after about 3 of these runs, feeling like a huge failure. 

My pregnancy was a miserable experience.  I was nauseous 24/7, and the nausea kept me awake for about 22 of those hours, every day for months.  I was sick or retching dozens of times every day – and although in this pregnancy I was never hospitalised,  eating was hugely difficult, work was a living nightmare and running was a distant dream.  I missed it so much.

My second pregnancy was even tougher, I was hospitalised 3 times and tried 7 different anti-emetic drugs before I was able to function at all.  I missed 8 months of my daughter’s life while I lay bedbound, dehydrated and lonely.  Those nausea and vomit ridden months of my second pregnancy passed very slowly.  I missed my normal life and once again running was a distant memory.

I was suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) a severe and potentially life threatening form of pregnancy sickness which affects around 1-2% of women.

After both pregnancies I desperately tried to get back into running – but after months of complete inactivity my once strong muscles had wasted and my confidence was ruined.  I was scared of the body that had made me so ill. I was also left with horrible memories and a deep emetophobia and terror of getting ill again which made pushing myself whilst running virtually impossible.

I had tried to run a marathon in 2011 when my first daughter was 15 months old – I struggled to train properly and then succumbed to a sickness bug the night before the race. Angry that sickness was stopping me again I tried to run anyway but had to stop at 19 miles, shattered and mentally broken. Lying in a St John’s Ambulance tent was a deep low for me, and this ‘failure’ destroyed any remaining confidence I had. For a very very long time I doubted that I would ever attempt another marathon.

I realised when my youngest daughter was about 18 months old that I had to learn to enjoy my running again.  I couldn’t get over HG and all the phobias and hang ups it had left me with without learning to push my body.  I had to rebuild the strength I once had.  She is 3 ½ now and I have got myself to the point where I can run races and enjoy them.  I’m still an awful lot slower than I want to be, than I used to be, but I am improving, and enjoying the process.  It’s a really big step for me.  

An even bigger step has been entering another marathon.  I haven't chosen an easy option! The Snowdonia Marathon is a stunning 26.2 mile course which follows a loop on the roads around Wales’s highest peak.   With over 1000 feet of climbing it’s one of the toughest road marathons there is but I’ve trained there as much as I can and I am happy to be starting the next chapter of my marathon running in such a beautiful place.

I am running for Pregnancy Sickness Support  (PSS) because the work they do is inspirational.  The charity is run on a shoestring, but with more passion than you could imagine.  I rang the helpline when I was at my lowest ebb, and received evidence-based information about medication options which I was able to use to advocate for myself when hospitalised.  I joined the online support group where I met – for the first time – people who actually understood how hard an HG pregnancy is, that it is not something you can ‘think positive’ through, that you are not being a wimp over a bit of sickness, that you have fought so very hard to have your children and that it is an insult to say you are not grateful for them.  I am so grateful for my children, but it has taken me years to come to terms with how hard it was to bring them into the world.  PSS has helped me feel normal throughout that time.

I have volunteered for PSS for 3 years now, providing 1-2-1 peer support to sufferers, moderating on their forum, presenting to Health Professionals, and I even presented at the charity's most recent conference this year.  The charity only employs one person, everyone else involved is a volunteer, and they get no central funding, it is all donations.  So every penny you give makes a huge difference to women at an incredibly scary and lonely time.   

If you would like to sponsor me and support this fantastic charity, my fundraising page is here. Thank you.

Monday, 6 June 2016

#tougHGirls do the Tough Mudder by Beci Goodrick

On Saturday 21st May I did one of the craziest, most exhausting and most exhilarating things I've ever done: Tough Mudder Midlands. 11.1m of mud, hills, water, ice, walls and electric shocks. £1111 made for PSS! Not bad for a day's work (and 6 months of training).
On the morning of the event my teammate and fellow PSS volunteer Emma Watford and I met up, donned our #tougHGirls temporary tattoos and headed for the start line. I thought I was nervous before but it turns out I didn't know the meaning of nerves until this!
Some of the obstacles were incredibly mentally challenging. The walls especially I found difficult, not made easier by the fall on my face - I have some excellent bruises! 
Still, the thought of raising so much money kept us going! And as Emma rightly pointed out, if we can survive HG, we can survive anything!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Tough Mudder Midlands is a matter of hours away and I’m packing up my HG hero, Steve and HG survivor, 14 month old Sienna and we’re heading for Belvoir Castle to tackle what they say is ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’, to raise money for the amazing charity Pregnancy Sickness Support.

Today the route was released. A 12 mile mud run punctuated with obstacles named according to their 25 different shades of sadism. It kicks off with Skid Marks and Sewer Rat, and after scaling and abseiling fences and climbing over hay bales, crawling through a dark tunnel of muddy water, and wading across a swamp, I’ll look *a lot less* sexy than any characters E L James could dream up. This is definitely not Fifty Shades of Grey; there’s no safe word, no ‘out’. After those five obstacles there’s another 20 to conquer… And my team mate, fellow PSS volunteer Beci (see previous post) has my permission to push me over any precipice on the course that might stop me in my tracks. I’ve trained too hard not to feel well ready for all of the challenges the course throws at me. Although I’m guessing that the 10 tonnes of ice they load Arctic Enema with won’t be the biggest turn on… or maybe Electroshock Therapy.

Aside from having trained hard, my mindset is this: I love being fit enough to take on a Tough Mudder. It’s just 14 months since I limped away from pregnancy-long hyperemesis gravidarum and the early delivery of my tiny baby. I spent long, lonely months trapped at home by extreme pregnancy sickness, fantasising about being able to feel the buzz of getting my heart rate up rather than how I was going to keep a cocktail of anti-sickness drugs down; to leap into water rather than struggle to wash my hair or brush my teeth in it because its smell(?!) made me gag. And to make Steve proud of me after all those months of picking up the pieces of me.

This event comes a week after international HG awareness day and the Pregnancy Sickness Support charity’s annual conference. The experiences that flooded my social media feeds and that were shared first hand by former HG sufferers are still ringing in my ears – there’s so much heart breaking loss surrounding HG pregnancies; from the loss of the long hoped-for glow of pregnancy, loss of dignity at incessant puking and peeing and being unable to care for yourself, to the tragic losses from ‘therapeutic’ termination, prematurity and stillbirth. The PSS charity is working very hard to support women and families enduring this and to improve the support and treatment they receive in the UK. Every penny that people sponsor me is supporting the charity to alleviate some of this hardship.

If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you. 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Beci's Tough Mudder - Training well underway

In October my friend Kim and I decided to sign up for the Midlands Tough Mudder race. This seemed like a fun plan at the time. A little over a month away now, I'm starting to wonder what I've let myself in for! Our little team has since been joined by another PSS volunteer Emma Watford.

For those unfamiliar with Tough Mudder it's basically a mud obstacle run. Our event is roughly 12 miles around Belvoir Castle, Grantham and includes obstacles happily entitled Electroshock Therapy, Arctic Enema, Birth Canal and Crybaby (I'm led to believe this involves tear gas!) Have a look at the photos of previous events, it should give an idea of which are which!

Training has been going pretty well, though I think I underestimated how much time it would take up! Interspersed with running is cardio sessions (Zumba, circuits) and strength training (strength yoga, lots and lots of squats, weights). I can now at least run the 12 miles! Honestly the hardest thing is the mental barriers we are all trying to break. I found myself running around muddy puddles but now force myself through them! 

Still, every bit of training will make it easier on the day! And hopefully we will make a good sum for Pregnancy Sickness Support, which is the point when all is said and done! If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you!

Wish us luck (I fear we will need it)!