A couple whose son was lucky to survive a brain infection have run their first marathon to raise money for a charity which provides support and raises awareness of the condition.
Kyle and Leanne McGaffin, along with Kyle’s brother Robert McFarland and friends Catherine Fiddes and Jeff Scott, formed a relay team for the Belfast Marathon which they ran in four hours 11 minutes.
The Portadown couple’s son Ellis, now aged 7, contracted encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, when he was aged two.
And it has been a slow road to recovery since then, with Ellis suffering problems with the muscles in his legs, as well as speech and language and behavioural development.
Said Leanne, “The doctors said it was probably caused by a viral infection. We thought he was going to die. He was in Craigavon for three weeks, then transferred to the Royal for a few days, before going back to Craigavon again.
“What saved Ellis’s life was that the junior doctor who saw him in A&E gave him a drug to treat encephalitis ‘just in case’, even though he thought it was meningitis.”
Although Ellis, now a pupil at Hart Memorial PS, still sees the consultant paediatrician, he has “come on leaps and bounds” according to his mum.
She said, “There isn’t a lot of awareness out there about encephalitis which is one of the reasons we wanted to raise money for The Encephalitis Society.”
Leanne, who works as a nurse at Bannview Care Home, and Kyle, a butcher at Emerson’s in Armagh, only took up running last November after joining the Rugby Club branch of Slimming World.
Since then, the couple have shed a combined four stone, which helped give them the incentive to tackle the marathon.
Despite Leanne hurting her ankle three weeks ago, she successfully ran the fourth leg, while husband Kyle managed the fifth and final leg in just 41 minutes.
Leanne’s stepbrother David Winter was supposed to be running but was unable to due to injury - with Jeff Scott filling in at the last minutes - but David is organising a bucket collection at Portadown Football Club next season.
The relay team has so far raised £720, with some donations still coming in, and have thanked family, friends, work colleagues and Hart Memorial PS, where the couple’s other two sons Kody (8) and Cooper (4) are also pupils, for all their support and donations.