Marathon effort for Snowdrop Trust

Helen Spandley with her daughter Gabby, three     Pictures by Kate Shemilt C131207-1
Helen Spandley with her daughter Gabby, three Pictures by Kate Shemilt C131207-1

WHEN Helen Spandley’s daughter was rushed into surgery at just two days old she didn’t know what the future held.

More than three years on, she is running a marathon in a bid to thank the charity which has been there for her family.

Helen, 36, is taking on the Bournemouth Marathon on October 6 to raise funds for the Snowdrop Trust, which provides support to her three-year-old daughter Gabby.

“They have just been fantastic, it is such a good cause,” said Helen, of Middleton Gardens, Tangmere.

Heart operation

At first, when Gabby was born at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, on the morning of January 12, 2010, everything appeared normal.

However, at 3am the next day she was rushed to Southampton Hospital after being diagnosed with critical pulmonary stenosis.

The day after that, a balloon was inserted up through her groin to stretch her heart valves.

“It was found just in the first hours after her birth which was very lucky, because if the doctor hadn’t come round to do the checks early, she would probably have been a cot death in the hospital,” said Helen.

Gabby spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from her operation.

When the family returned home, a community nurse put them in touch with Snowdrop.

“I didn’t even know about them until then,” said Helen.

The charity has continued to support Helen, her husband Richard, and Gabby ever since.

Long-term support

Although she should not need a valve replacement until much later in life Gabby still has yearly check-ups and has other health needs.

A feeding peg was recently fitted because she was not getting enough nutrients, leading to her being underweight and small for her age.

“She had to go to Southampton for it and we were umming and aahing about who was going to stay with her, because my husband would obviously have to commute to work,” said Helen, a health care assistant at St Richard’s Hospital.

“But they paid for a B&B so we could take it in turns to stay with her. They have also bought her a weighted blanket which helps with her sleeping.”

It is still unclear what is causing Gabby’s feeding problems and, earlier this year, she was also diagnosed with autism.

“She is a bit of a mystery to the doctors,” said Helen,

“They say there is something else going on but they don’t know what.

“It is going to be a long time before we get a name for all her problems, but apart from that she is a very happy little girl.”

Always there

As well as paying for accommodation, Snowdrop has replaced flooring in the family’s new home and covered Gabby’s ‘really expensive’ insurance costs when they took their first holiday together.

“I just want to give something back to them,” said Helen.

“I want to say thank you to Di from the Snowdrop Trust for helping us and also all the community nurses, particularly Tash, Gill and Jackie.

“They are there for us all the time, at the end of the phone if you need them.”

As well as raising money for Snowdrop, the marathon is also a chance for Helen, already a keen runner, to do something for herself.

“I have always wanted to do the London Marathon but I have never got in,” she said. “When I saw the Bournemouth one I thought ‘Okay, I’ll do it’ and then I actually got in.

“But it is also because the Snowdrop Trust gave us a lot of help with Gabby and I just wanted to do something for them as well as the personal achievement for myself.”


Before signing up for the marathon, the furthest Helen, a member of Haslemere Running Club, had ever run was ten miles in the Great South Run.

During training, she made it up to 15 miles but a hip injury has given her a slight setback.

“At the moment, I am not allowed to run so I am cycling instead,” she said.

“If I would have done a two-hour run I am doing a two-hour bike ride instead.”

Before her injury Helen was hoping to complete the run in around four hours, 20 minutes, but now says she will be happy if she can finish in under five hours.

“I am just aiming to get to the start and to the finish. I think there is a bit of pressure because I think you have to finish within six hours otherwise they come and pick you up on the mini bus.”

She added: “I have got my husband and daughter coming to support me and lots of girls from my running club are taking part as well, so that should encourage me.”

Helen said she has already received sponsorship from friends, family and her colleagues at the hospital but is still a long way off from her £500 target.

Her fundraising page can be found online at

More details on the Snowdrop Trust at