Three UCL students who are helping to alleviate problems that cause babies to be born early or with health problems through UCL-led research supported by Bliss completed the Royal Parks Half Marathon across the capital on 9 October to further support the work of the charity.
Luis C. Garcia Peraza Herrera, Michael Ebner and Stefano Moriconi are doctoral students from the research project Guided Instrumentation for Fetal Therapy and Surgery (GIFT-Surg). This is a major, international initiative looking at ways to operate in-utero – in the womb – to alleviate problems such as poor organ growth or nutrient imbalances through the placenta which may affect babies and mothers during pregnancy and can lead to long-term health implications.
The GIFT-Surg project is based at the University College London (UCL) Institute of Healthcare Engineering and works in collaboration with KU Leuven, Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London Hospital. Bliss has supported GIFT-Surg by advising on research priorities, ethical considerations and outward communications through the project’s Patient and Public Involvement and Advisory Group. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust and the EPSRC under the Innovative Engineering for Health award and supported by the UCLH NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.
Keen runners Luis, who is from Tenerife; Austrian-born Michael and Italian Stefano, initially aimed to raise over £1200 for Bliss. By organising a dedicated fundraising campaign which included a sell-out Quiz Night on 15 September they managed to raise a fantastic grand total of over £1300 and were in the top 5% of fundraisers on the whole Just Giving. This will help Bliss’ work supporting parents of babies born premature or sick and ensuring their babies’ voices are at the heart of decision making, as well as supporting the neonatal professionals involved in their care, together with research that can improve outcomes for the 90,000 babies born premature or sick in the UK each year.
They said: “After meeting parents who have pregnancy complications through our research studies and hearing personal accounts from the advisory group we wanted to do more to support the patients. When we discovered Bliss had a charity team with the Royal Parks Half Marathon we put together an application straight away. Luckily, Bliss accepted our proposal and we’re delighted to announce we managed to meet our target.”
The annual Royal Parks Half Marathon across central London began in 2008. The stunning 13.1 mile route takes in the capital’s world-famous landmarks on closed roads, and four of London’s eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens.
Caroline Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss, said: “We are so grateful to Stefano, Michael and Luis and all the runners taking part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon to raise money for us. Their support is invaluable in helping us to achieve our ambition to reach every single baby born needing neonatal care in the UK and their family. We want every baby to benefit from our work, no matter how long they live or how long they spend on a neonatal unit.”