James Halse tackles Peak District challenge in memory of baby son | Action Medical Research

Dad tackles epic challenge in memory of baby son

18 September 2015

A grieving father will be running the ultimate Peak District race through the night on Friday, 18 September, in memory of his baby son.

James Halse will be tackling the 100km Gold Ultra Challenge to raise funds for children’s charity Action Medical Research after little Elijah died from necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) after having been born prematurely at just 25 weeks.

Elijah, who was nicknamed Lightning, lived for just 37 days after he was born at The Jessop Hospital in Sheffield. He developed necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating bowel disorder that mainly strikes premature babies. While he was recovering from surgery, a scan revealed extensive brain damage caused by lack of oxygen during his illness. His family then had to make the heart-breaking decision to move from intensive care to palliative care.

Each year in the UK, up to 3,000 babies, or around three per cent of newborns in neonatal units, develop necrotising enterocolitis.1 Sadly, up to 35 per cent of these babies die and survivors often develop long-term health problems.1,2

Action Medical Research is currently funding a study to help develop a new diagnostic test which could allow babies with NEC to be identified and treated sooner. Researchers hope this will reduce the likelihood of the disease progressing and therefore limit the devastating consequences. 

James, who lives in Sheffield, says running helped him to cope with Elijah’s tragic death and his son will be his constant inspiration during the tough 24-hour event.

“In the days and weeks after Elijah died, as well as organising a funeral, drinking copious quantities of tea and crying a lot, I set up a tribute fund in Elijah's memory to raise money for Action Medical Research, and I started running,” he says.

“Action had been funding a study to improve early diagnosis of NEC and the charity funds so much other important research. Running gave, and still gives, me much-needed headspace. It gives me time to think about Elijah, about his life and his death. Running has been a huge help to my mental health over the past two and a bit years since Elijah's life.

“That's why I'm running the 100km Peak District Gold Challenge to raise money for Action Medical Research. Elijah is the reason I run and he's the reason I became involved with Action. He showed determination and strength in the challenges he faced so young. If I can show at least some of that same determination, I should complete the challenge.”

James and wife Jenny, along with their friends and family, have raised more than £22,000 for Action Medical Research and aim to reach £37,000.

With the help of its supporters, Action Medical Research has played a significant role in many medical breakthroughs since it began in 1952, from the development of the first UK polio vaccines to the use of ultrasound in pregnancy. It is currently supporting research into meningitis, Down syndrome, epilepsy and premature birth, as well as some rare and distressing conditions that severely affect children.

To support James’ fundraising efforts, please visit action.org.uk/sponsor/jhalse or please visit the tribute page for Elijah at action.org.uk/tribute/elijahhalse

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For a high-res pic of James Halse with Elijah, please click on the link below:


For a high-res pic of Elijah, please click on the link below:


For a high-res pic of Elijah’s headstone, please click on the link below:




  1. Rees CM, Eaton S, Pierro A. Trends in infant mortality from necrotising enterocolitis in England and Wales and the USA. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 2008; 93: F395-6.
  2. Statnikov Y, Santhakumaran S, Manktelow B, Modi N (on behalf of the Neonatal Data Analysis Unit). Surveillance of necrotising enterocolitis in England, Neonatal Society Abstracts, The Neonatal Society. Website accessed 16 March 2011: http://www.neonatalsociety.ac.uk/abstracts/statnikovy_2010_necsurveillance.shtml

For more information on Action Medical Research, please contact Ellie Evans, Fundraising Communications Officer, on:

T: 01403 327480

E: eevans@action.org.uk

W: action.org.uk

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Action Medical Research is a leading UK-wide charity working to save and change children’s lives through medical research. We believe that the diseases that devastate the lives of so many of our children can be beaten. We have been funding medical breakthroughs since we began in 1952 like the first polio vaccines in the UK, ultrasound in pregnancy and the rubella vaccine – helping to save thousands of children’s lives and change many more.

Just one breakthrough, however small, can mean the world. Charity reg. nos 208701 and SC039284.

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