The mother of a five-year-old girl who passed away from a rare illness is in Carrick this week as part of her ‘Walk of Love’ around the coast of Great Britain, to raise money in her daughter’s memory.
Natalia Spencer, 41, from Cheltenham, is walking 6,000 miles around the coast after her daughter Elizabeth passed away at Bristol Children’s Hospital in December last year.
Elizabeth was taken ill in November last year with a relatively common virus which triggered an autoimmune condition known as Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). This rare condition caused Elizabeth’s body to go into septic shock, shutting down her major organs and cutting off the blood supply to her limbs.
Elizabeth spent eighteen days on life support in Bristol Children’s Hospital, but despite doctors’ best efforts passed away on 10 December. Natalia now hopes to raise £100,000 for The Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity, in her daughter’s memory.
Bristol Children’s Hospital treats 100,000 critically ill children and babies a year from across a larger geographic area than any other children’s hospital in England, including the whole of the South West and South Wales.
Natalia’s ‘Walk of Love’ started on Valentine’s Day at Durdle Door in Dorset, the last beach she and Elizabeth visited together. She has since then covered almost 2,000 miles, following the coast around Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, the entire coast of Wales, and into Lancashire and Cumbria. She arrived in Annan on Thursday 30 June, her 118th day of walking.
Natalia is now in Carrick and is inviting anyone who would like to walk with her to join her for part of the journey, and has been joined at various stages by a whole host of supporters, many of whom have also experienced the loss of a child.
Natalia said, “Elizabeth particularly loved the beach and the sea and we went to the seaside a lot. After she passed away I went to the seaside quite a few times and I realised that it is the only place that helps me to feel better and connect with her.
“The walk has been incredibly challenging in places, but arriving in Scotland will be a huge milestone on my journey. Walking as far as 20 miles each day is exhausting but the coastline has been beautiful and I have met so many wonderful people along the way who have walked with me, offered me somewhere to stay, or somewhere to have a cup of coffee and a rest. Their kindness and support is a huge comfort and means I am not on my own.
“I hope that by completing this walk I will be able to bring something positive from Elizabeth’s death. Her memory will live on through the people I meet along the way and all those who are touched by her legacy.”
Natalia’s walk has already raised more than £43,000. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/Natalia-Spencer or text ELIF55 and your donation amount to 70070. You can follow her progress at www.elizabethsfootprint.com and on Facebook by searching ‘Elizabeth’s Footprint’.
The Grand Appeal is celebrating its 21st anniversary I 2016 and has to date raised more than £40 million to support critically ill children and babies at Bristol Children’s Hospital, providing life-saving medical equipment, patient facilities and therapies and accommodation for families. For more information about The Grand Appeal, visit www.grandappeal.org.uk .