The birth of our first child Matthew was straightforward. In 2007, though, Kerry was only 24 weeks into her second pregnancy when she went into premature labour following a condition called placenta praevia. Our son, Christian, was born asleep and Kerry suffered a life-threatening haemorrhage. It took 13 units of blood to stabilise her. And when our daughter Amy was born two years later, Kerry needed a transfusion again. Both mum and baby are now completely fit and well, but the story could have been so different.
One of the most difficult things about losing a child is the feeling of powerlessness: at Christian’s birth, there was absolutely nothing I could do.
Then I realised that I could help save other mums’ lives by donating blood myself, and encourage others to do the same by becoming an ambassador for the National Blood Service, the national blood supply for England and Wales.
I hardly ever thought about my own health, though, until the approach of my 40th birthday.
I weighed 19st 3½lbs, had awful acid reflux and a hernia my doctor said could only be cured if I lost weight. When I glimpsed my reflection in a shop window, I felt horrified at how ill and middle-aged I looked. What had happened to the sporty bloke I’d been in my teens and 20s? I realised that if I was to be able to keep giving blood and stay active for my kids, I needed to take action about my weight.
My sister Sarah had lost 5st with Slimming World, so she was rooting for me when I joined Kay’s group in September 2012. Once upon a time, I’d loved cooking – I’d just become reliant on convenience foods, chips and sugary things. Back at home I started to rediscover the joys of home-made spaghetti bolognese, risotto, curry and chips. After just two weeks, my reflux symptoms disappeared, never to return, and my hernia cleared up over the next few months. I loved feeling healthier and was delighted to reach 15st for my 40th, and my target a few weeks later.
I can’t turn back the clock and make Christian’s birth turn out differently, but I can devote time (and, now that I’ve lost 5st, considerable energy) to ensuring there are blood stocks to help other people like Kerry who desperately need it in an emergency.
And I can be a fun, active dad to Matthew and Amy, running around and chasing them, and generally being a big kid! I’m loving life again – and helping others to be able to enjoy it, too.’