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Mum running hard

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2012
Alex Webb
LITTLE FIGHTER: Alex Webb was born at 33 weeks gestation and spent 51 days in the NICU ward.
Alex Webb
RUNNING HIGH: Elaine Webb was inspired to attempt running 720km in 51 days to raise money for Auckland’s Neonatal Trust after the premature birth of her son Alex.

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Elaine Webb beats a path into Cornwall Park's boundary line with her hair pulled back into a loose ponytail and running shoes on.

It's a run she often does twice a day as part of her 720 kilometre challenge to raise money to furnish three new suites in the former Tamaki Ward at Auckland Hospital.

The main purpose of the new rooms, now called the NICU Mothers' Suite, is to allow discharged mothers to stay near their sick or premature babies who are in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Mrs Webb's mind is on the challenges faced by the parents who have to return home and leave their newborn babies at the hospital.

It's a harrowing experience that she is all too familiar with after the premature birth of her son Alex two years ago.

Alex was born at 33 weeks gestation, requiring a 51-day stay in the NICU ward to mature and undergo hernia surgery.

"The whole thing was quite traumatic," Mrs Webb says. "I had a caesarean and then five days later I had to leave the baby there in someone else's care and that's what I found really hard."

The mother-of-three says after getting Alex home she knew she wanted to give something back to support new families going through similar experiences.

So she set herself the challenge of running 720km in 51 days.

The distance represents the kilometres that she and her husband travelled from their Three Kings home to be with Alex in the NICU ward and the 51 days represents the length of his stay.

And the synchronicity doesn't stop there.

Her journey began on November 30, Alex's second birthday, and will conclude on his discharge date of January 17 with a 51km run finishing at Auckland Hospital.

"I wanted to give myself something that I would find really challenging like going into NICU and leaving Alex behind to go see my other kids," she says. "I wanted to try and epitomise the struggle that the families have."

Her goal is to raise awareness of the difficulties and isolation faced by NICU parents, as well as raise $6000 for the Mothers' Suite.

The basic upgrade has been completed but any money that Mrs Webb raises will be used to add creature comforts to the rooms such as TVs and chairs. Mrs Webb says the ability to stay at the hospital a few more days when Alex was born would have been a tremendous relief, and she wants other parents to have that opportunity.

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Visit givealittle.co.nz/cause/runningforauckland to donate to Mrs Webb's cause or follow her efforts on ‘Running for Auckland Neonatal Trust' on Facebook.

- Central Leader

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