Sheffield teacher runs every day to raise funds and awareness of stillbirth

Sheffield primary school teacher Clare Tierney-Kitchener and husband Phil suffered every parent’s worst nightmare 21 years ago.

Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 12:48 pm

Their first child Holly was stillborn – being diagnosed with Edwards’ Syndrome just 24 hours before her birth.

“She was our first baby, you don’t think it’s going to happen to you,” said Clare, who teaches at Meersbrook Bank Primary School.

“I was virtually full term – I was eight months pregnant when I had her. Nothing was picked up until I kind of knew things weren't right, and I went to the hospital.

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Clare Tierney with pupils

“She died the day before I had her.”

It was then that they found out the cause of death was Edwards’ Syndrome.

Also known as Trisomy 18, it is a rare but serious condition.

Clare said: “There was a really high chance that any other children that we had would also have Edwards’ Syndrome.

Clare Tierney and School Runners

“Edwards’ isn’t really compatible with life. Some children are born, but a lot of children with Edwards’ only live a year or two. They stay in hospital and it’s not any quality of life.”

Clare and Phil had to go for genetic testing to determine where the syndrome came from, and the likelihood of passing the condition to further children.

When the results came back they found out neither was a carrier.

“I wouldn’t say we were elated, it was just a relief I suppose,” said Clare.

Meersbrook Bank Primary School, Derbyshire Lane. Picture: Andrew Roe

On hearing the test result they were keen to try again for another child, and after six weeks from losing Holly, Clare was pregnant with Finnley.

Clare said: “It was only after I'd had my second child Finnley, who is now 20, we realised how traumatic it had been. It kind of hit us after he was born.

“Because of what happened we had to have a lot of testing with our three children.

“Even though there wasn’t a genetic link, I had to have amino synthesis tests, and lots of other tests to check we were ok.

“At the time we just went into survival mode I suppose.”

When Clare and Phil suffered the loss of Holly, they found that after-care for parents suffering such a loss wasn’t readily available.

“There wasn’t really a service for parents whose babies had died,” said Clare.

“At the time, the support and after-care for parents was very poor and I wanted to do something to raise awareness and support for families who are going through the same experience as we did.

“We were put in touch with a charity called SANDS who support bereaved parents.”

Clare was motivated to do something to help other parents who had suffered the loss of a child and now, 21 years on, she has completed a big challenge.

“Because she would have been 21, and because I suppose I’ve always said I was going to do something, I decided this was my year of running.

“I made a bit of a mistake, because I kind of thought I'd start on January 1, 2021.

“But on October 22, 2020, I had a bit of a trial run, to see if I could run everyday for a month, then I got a bit addicted so I didn’t stop, so I’ve been running since October 2020.”

Clare has now run well over 420 days consecutively.

“It has taken me 21 years to fulfil my promise of raising awareness and helping to support other families,” she said.

Clare has also been joined by some of the pupils from her school.

And she has also been supported by headteacher Gemma Harvey.

Clare said: “My head has been really supportive, she’s going to put it in the school newsletter to parents.

“I’ve kept quiet about it, she’s going to let parents know.

“If I go out every night and do my run you've got to shout about it, haven't you?

“I'm not very good at that.

“The whole point is to raise money to support people who are going through it now.

“I started running with my class, there’s one little girl in Y6 now, who started running with me, and she's ran for a year as well.'

"We ran at school every day, and she ran on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Kitty has run every day in support of her teacher including running in her room in bad weather and once getting her mum to run with her late at night.

She said: “I made my mum get out of bed, and we went for a run at about 11pm.

“We’d finished watching a film and I realised I’d not done my run, so we went for a run.

“Sometimes I run round my my room when it was raining, I had to run round my room in circles,” said Kitty

Clare has really been disciplined while doing her runs fitting them in at diffening times of the day and night, in all weathers.

“Sometimes I’d go at six in the morning, before I go to work, or try to go as soon as I got home from work, just put my running stuff on and go, just whenever I can.

“It's amazing because I’ve run in every single bit of weather. I've run through storms, rain and really hot weather.

“My eldest son is at Edinburgh University. One day we’d gone to visit, and I hadn’t run before we’d set off.

“It was 11.15pm when we got to Edinburgh and I hadn’t done my run, so I had to go running at 11.15pm in Edinburgh.

“That’s the latest I’ve done it, just hadn’t managed to fit it in,” said Clare

At the start of her challenge Clare did have her doubts, as running doesn’t come natural, or easy to her.

“I can’t believe I’ve done it really, on the first of January 2021 I thought I’m not sure I'm gonna manage this.”

Throughout the challenge Clare has always felt motivated and committed to the task.

“Because people are sponsoring me, I felt like I really didn’t have a choice. It makes it easier,otherwise you make any excuse to not go,” said Clare.

After a year of dedicated daily runs Clare thinks it will be hard to stop and is keen to start another challenge.

Clare said: “It’s now become a habit, but I have another challenge ready.

“Our close friends’ son who is 14, and a friend of my youngest Monty, has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

“He’s receiving chemotherapy at the moment. It’s took us all by surprise.

“Now Monty, and I are going to attempt to run 2022 miles in 2022 between us, to raise money for the teenage cancer ward at The Children’s Hospital.”

An online fundraising page has been set up for anyone wishing to donate to Clare’s appeal.