Sophie’s run saves premmie babies
Published: 10 April 2018
How personal tragedy inspired a multi-million dollar charity
Sophie Smith is a true inspiration. She’s endured more grief and heartbreak than anyone should ever have to face, and yet she’s managed to use that as motivation to help save lives.
In 2006, Sophie was elated to discover that not only had she had fallen pregnant to her new husband Ash, but she was having triplets. However, out of the blue, at just 21 weeks pregnant, her waters broke – and it led to a tragic set of events.
“I was told that I would go into labour probably in the next 24 hours,” Sophie recalls. “And at 21 weeks it’s too early for medical intervention and so I was told ‘your babies are all going to die’.”
Five days later, her first son Henry was born. But Sophie and Ash only got to spend an hour with the tiny baby before he passed away.
Fighting through the grief, she managed to struggle to 24 and a half weeks before giving birth to Henry’s brothers, Evan and Jasper. Although they were still extremely premature, at that age, intervention was possible, and Sophie was confident that the two boys would survive.
Sadly, Evan got pneumonia, and then a brain haemorrhage. At just 10 days old, doctors recommended that they should remove life support.
Sophie and Ash focussed their efforts on Jasper, but he suffered repeated lung collapses, and died aged just 58 days.
The couple were understandably devastated. But amidst the grief, Sophie remembered a conversation she’d had when her waters had broken for Evan and Jasper, that there weren’t enough newborn intensive care cribs in all of Sydney, and her babies might need to be flown interstate – one to Brisbane and the other to Melbourne.
“There’s one of the best newborn intensive care units in the country right next door to my room and we were going to be moved elsewhere,” Sophie explains.
Luckily by the time she actually gave birth, cribs had become available in Sydney, but the conversation stuck in her mind – along with the startling fact that the Sydney Royal Hospital for Women relied on donations for 70 per cent of the equipment in the unit.
Soon after Jasper died, Ash suggested that they start training for the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon, hoping to raise $20,000 for one humidicrib for the hospital – in memory of their triplets.
A decade on, Running for Premature Babies is the largest team in the half marathon – and they’ve raised a total of $2.5 million, enough to purchase 29 pieces of lifesaving equipment.
Sophie fell pregnant again fifteen months after Jasper’s passing, and gave birth to a healthy baby, Owen. Heartbreakingly, six months after Owen’s birth, Ash was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of brain cancer, GBM Stage 4.
Ash and Sophie had another baby, Harvey, through IVF during Ash’s treatment. And while their kids were able to spend several wonderful years together with their father, Ash died in 2016.
“As soon as he died I felt there was a physical knot in my stomach which I found hard to rid myself of,” Sophie says. “I found it hard to eat, I found it hard to sleep. But again the thing that saved me was the team and the running.”
And it’s that sense of hope that Sophie is continuing to foster. The SMH half marathon is on again next month, but next, Sophie hopes to go national.
“My vision is that over the next few years we can have a team running in every capital city, supporting newborn intensive care units right around the country.”
Sophie’s book, Sophie’s Boys, is available now. To join or support the Running for Premature Babies team, visit their website.