Barford man completes sea kayak challenge

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A Barford man whose son contacted a life-threatening brain infection when he was only a week old, has raised more than £5,000 for a cerebral palsy charity with a grueling sea kayak challenge.

Tom Williams, 38, along with two friends, completed a 30 mile route to the Outer Hebrides last week, in aid of the charity PACE.

Tom was inspired to take on the challenge having seen what his two-year-old son Bertie had to go through when he contracted viral encephalitis as an infant.

Bertie spent several weeks in Birmingham Children’s Hospital after the viral infection damaged his brain and parents Tom and Emily feared he would grow up with disabilities.

Tom said: “We were terrified when we got the news, when the two consultants asked us to sit down after Bertie’s brain scan, we just thought something must have been wrong.

“The scan revealed that the virus had attacked Bertie’s brain in around 25-30 areas. They told us basically that we would have to get used to uncertainty and they wouldn’t be able to tell us how it would affect him until he got older. We were terrified, it was hard to get your head around.”

Despite the uncertain diagnosis, Bertie is developing well, with normal movement and is beginning to talk.

Bertie will continue to have further checks as he grows up, but current indications suggest he will go on to live a healthy normal life.

“We just feel like we’ve won the lottery.” said Tom.

“There were times in hospital where we were not sure if he would pull through it all. We’re hopeful that Bertie will not be diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which is kind of an umbrella term for damage to a developing brain. We realise that we have been very lucky, there are many other families that are not. This is the reason I decided to do this kayak challenge for PACE.”

Tom began training for the two-day 30-mile challenge last year, losing two stone at the gym and picking up a sea kayak qualification in preparation.

The journey took him and his friends, Pete Rice-Evan and Dominique Limet, around the Island of Barra via an overnight camping spot on the uninhabited island of Fuday.

Tom said: “I’d done a little bit of kayaking on a gap year and some when I was at school so I decided it would be good to do something like this because it’s a bit different and quite remote, which carried that element of danger.

“It was a significant distance and I think the last 5km was the hardest part because we were against the tide and the wind, we were going half the speed we could have expected without those conditions. Camping on Fuday was fantastic, it was just us and some sheep and it was so picturesque and we even saw a golden eagle on our travels.

“I’m delighted with how much we’ve raised so far, I only expected to get around £1,000 and we’re hopefully looking at around £5,500 now.”

To help Tom raise money for PACE visit www.justgiving.com/111-amigos or you can pledge money by texting PANG70 and the amount you want to give to 70070.