2 August 2004
Bristol neonatal nurse, Chris Ludlam, 47, teamed up this week with Andrea Guest, mother of premature twins, to urge people to start training for a cause that’s close to their hearts. The UK’s leading medical research charity, Action Medical Research, is holding its 23rd annual ‘Action 100’ bike ride from Bath and Bristol to London on Sunday 29 August, 2004. This is the fourth year that Chris and his wife (Louise Hibbins, 46) will pedal the 100 miles from Bristol to London for the charity.
Action Medical Research is currently looking for answers to a wide range of medical problems that affect all age groups. The charity has funded projects at Bristol-based St. Michael’s Hospital, where Chris works, investigating the causes of premature birth. A high proportion of twins are born well before 37 weeks, more if the twins are identical, as Andrea Guest knows all too well.
“The cost of premature babies is far more than money” said Andrea, whose twins were born 14 weeks early. “They come with a whole range of concerns, complications, emotions and heartaches. We have such high expectations of doctors. Yet around 50,000 babies are born prematurely each year, about 135 a day. Modern technology means they’ve a much better chance of survival than ever before, but the number of premature births each year has not significantly decreased since the 1960's. Around 70,000 of all babies born in the UK every year need some special care at birth, and around 2,300 of all babies born die within their first month(1).”
Andrea’s own twins weighed 1 pound 13 (Ruby) and 1 pound 14 (Harvey) at birth after Andrea went into premature labour, caused by a blood clot affecting Harvey. Injections were given before birth to build up the babies’ lungs and attempts were made to stop the labour. But after 14 hours, the babies had to be delivered by caesarean section. Andrea was discharged from hospital 10 days later, and although she was able to help with practical things like feeding and changing, her babies’ lives were in the hands of the medical team.
Premature babies often develop complications including respiratory problems and bleeding on the brain. There are sometimes problems that cause complications right through to adulthood, including lasting disabilities such as cerebral palsy. It was a distressing time for Andrea, her husband and their family.
The Guest’s tiny twins were on ventilators for nearly eight weeks. During this time, Harvey had to have lumber puncture following a meningitis scare, and both twins contracted a series of infections. Each had three brain scans to check for brain bleeding. When the babies emerged from hospital, 11 weeks and 2 days later, they were fit and healthy, apart from a little difficulty sucking, thanks to the marvellous care they received.
“Andrea’s family are well aware that they are the lucky ones. Not all premature babies can be saved, and many have long term problems. The Action 100 ride is a positive opportunity to contribute to reducing the pain and anguish of premature birth, and is a fantastic personal challenge that people can do at their own pace,” said Chris.
The 100 mile ride is split into manageable chunks with the chance to meet lots of other cyclists on the way. The route passes through amazing countryside and couldn’t be for a better cause. For Chris and Andrea, it’s a cause close to home, but it’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t had contact with one of the many areas which Action Medical Research investigates.
The charity aims to top last year’s numbers, when 323 cyclists raised over £40,000.
Anyone wishing to take part in the Action 100 Bike ride on Sunday August 29 should contact Roy Clarke on 0117 970 6348 or visit www.action100ride.org.uk
(1) Figures quoted are NHS figures.
Please contact Jennifer Reid at Action Medical Research on 0117 9724 772 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
for further information regarding the ride.