The best and worst day of our lives

Although Will’s weight and length were measurably lacking at birth, the size of his heart and spirit were entirely immeasurable.

Phil took on the London Marathon with Team Tommy's in 2019. This is his story and reason for running. 

By Phil

I am honoured to have been selected by Team Tommy's to run in their charity's name because this cause is extremely meaningful to me as the proud father of a 25-week premature son. Here's my story....

Whilst living in London in 2004 as a US ex-pat, my wife Sharon and I were blessed with the news that we would be expecting our first child sometime in mid-November.

We were experiencing all the joys that first-time parents normally do.... what to name him or her, how we wanted to decorate the baby room, what kind of pram to purchase, and whether he or she would be a Liverpool or Chelsea supporter.

Our plan was to move back to the US in late August, so we could celebrate the baby's delivery back home with our family and dear friends. Unfortunately, the baby had different plans.

On the morning of 1 August, Sharon went into early labour and had to deliver the baby nearly 15 weeks prematurely. At 9:00, William Shin arrived in our world weighing less than 1kg and measuring less than 14 inches. 

It was quite simply the best day and worst day of our lives. The visions we had of welcoming our beautiful and healthy son into the world surrounded comfortably by our loved ones were instead replaced by the reality of the two of us sitting in a dark and sterile NICU room separated from our family thousands of miles away while we watched helplessly over our massively underdeveloped son clinging for his life.

This would be our norm for the next 4 months.

Through the wonderful support of the staffs and facilities at Croydon University Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital along with Will's undeniable fighting spirit, he was able to battle through and overcome all the challenges that come with being a micro-preemie.

Today Will has grown up to become a wonderful and healthy teenager who enjoys all the things that normal teenage boys do. His joy for life is so infectious that it almost makes his inauspicious start in this world worthwhile.

Although Will's weight and length were measurably lacking at birth, the size of his heart and spirit were entirely immeasurable. For that we have been tremendously blessed.

Unfortunately, many expectant parents are not nearly as lucky as we have been. Globally, more than 1 in 10 pregnancies end in premature birth (when a baby is born before 37 full weeks of pregnancy) – around 15 million babies every year.

Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age, responsible for approximately 1 million deaths in 2015.

Research is vital so that we can understand which women are likely to go into labour early and help them carry their baby for as long as possible.

Tommy’s conduct pioneering research into the causes and prevention of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth through their research centres and clinics across the country.

In particular, their centres in London and Edinburgh deal specifically with premature birth. Clinics at both centres care for mums at risk of preterm birth.

Tommy's work is entirely funded by donations. I am supporting Tommy's to help them continue to find the reasons why people suffer baby loss and most importantly, create a path to a world where every expecting family can realise the vision of welcoming their beautiful and healthy child as we had hoped for Will.

It is my greatest honour to be running the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon for Team Tommy's on behalf of all parents who have been affected by the challenges of preterm birth. On 28 April 2019 we will all cross that finish line together. 

Find out more about our groundbreaking research into premature birth