Marathons, triathlons and the Three Peaks - Doncaster dad's gruelling summer of fundraising challenges for critically ill 2-year-old son
A Doncaster dad is undertaking a series of gruelling fundraising challenges with a summer of triathlons, marathons and walks to raise funds for the hospital treating his sick toddler son.
Ryan Farmer has set himself a tough calendar of events from March through to October in a bid to raise cash for Sheffield Children's Hospital, where his son Zak has received treatment for an illness which means he has to be hooked up to a feeding tube 13 hours a day after he was born with a bowel deformity.
The youngster has battled back from the brink of death and undergone several major operations and now receives around the clock care.
The two-year-old was born to Ryan and partner Beckii in April 2015 and Ryan said: "It was the best gift we could ever imagine.
"Unfortunately Zak was referred to Sheffield Children's Hospital the very same day as he had air in his chest cavity and bowel malrotation and volvulus.
"Zak went to theatre for an operation to correct his bowel malrotation and have a chest drain put in place. He went to theatre a week or so later for a feeding line to be put in as he couldn't take full feeds at the time.
"We spent four and a bit weeks at the hospital. It was horrible to deal with and at times I really don't know how we coped. When your baby is born you just want to take them home and show them to the world, not have them in hospital fearing for what could happen."
The couple eventually returned home and Zak seemed to be on the mend, but in October 2015, the toddler began suffering from discomfort and vomiting.
He was rushed to Sheffield once more where he would spend another nine weeks.
Added Ryan: "We were unsure what was going off, nurses all around Zak trying to stabilise him.
"We were told he needed to go down to theatre to have a look what the issue was and our hearts sank once again, wondering what was going to happen."
After five hours in theatre, one of the surgeons came back to the ward and told the couple that Zak's bowel had twisted once again, but this time it had cut the blood supply off which caused the bowel to start to die.
He added: "The surgeons had untwisted it in the hope that within 24-48 hours the blood supply would start working and maybe bring some life back to the bowel.
"We were told that he may not make it, his body was in a bad way, being poisoned from the inside from the dead bowel.
"The surgeon told us 95% off his small intestine was dead. He could remove it, but still Zak may not pull through. We were given the option to give him a chance or let it take him."
Zak eventually recovered from the ordeal - but now needs around the clock care.
He added: "Life is not completely normal for Zak. He now has what is called short bowel syndrome, due to the amount of small intestine he lost.
"He now requires PN (Parenternal Nutrition) daily which is given through an IV line - so for 13 hours he is attached to a wire, which means no running around like a nutter.
"He cannot absorb nutrients through his small intestine as it is so small."
And the treatment has its dangers.
Ryan said: "It can cause liver damage and because the line is into one of his main arteries, it can cause nasty infections, which can potentially lead to death. Sepsis is a huge scare for us, so we have to be extra careful when touching his line and setting up his PN."
"Zak has been through so much, but he is such a happy little man, always playing and smiling away like nothing ever happened. We don't know what the future holds for Zak but we certainly hope it is good things. He deserves all the luck in the world. There's been issues along the way, and I'd be silly to think there won't be more but this little man is the strongest person I know."
And as a thank you, Ryan and other family and friends have set about the tough series of events to raise cash for the hospital.
"We cannot thank them enough for everything they have done," he said. "We have met so many surgeons, doctors, nurses and so on and we cannot thank them enough. They have done so much for Zak and taken great care of us along the way, keeping us sane at some of our darkest times. This hospital is a truly amazing place, as are the staff members that work there."
Ryan's fundraising calendar is:
March: The Major Series
April: Peak District trek
May: Leeds half marathon
June: Total Warrior
August: Yorkshire Three Peaks
September: Brigg sprint triathlon
October:- Men's Health survival of the fittest in Nottingham or Manchester.
Ryan is aiming to raise £1,000 and has set up a Just Giving page which you can donate to HERE.