TEENAGERS Ryan Finlay and Grant Coutts are gearing up for the Belfast Marathon in a bid to raise £5,000 towards the fund for an MRI scanner for the children’s hospital at the Royal Victoria Belfast, which will cost £2 million.
Ryan and Grant, who live in Craigavon, are running the marathon on May 6 in memory of Ryan’s 14-year-old cousin Sam Hardy who died of bone cancer in December. The marathon was something they had always wanted to do but felt this gave them the motivation they needed to help others in Sam’s memory.
The money raised will go to the Helping Hand charity’s MRI Scanner Appeal at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. The charity was established in 1997 by medical staff with the aim of helping children in their care.
Sam, who was from Augher, Co Tyrone attended Fivemiletown College and was a very bright and healthy boy but almost a year ago developed Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare and very aggressive form of bone cancer. He passed away peacefully at home with his family in December 2012.
The Royal Belfast Hospital For Sick Children is currently the only children’s hospital in the UK without an MRI scanner.
The absence of an MRI Scanner forces children to attend the main Royal hospital for a scan or, if the MRI scanner is unavailable, invasive procedures such as cardiac catheterisation may have to be used as an alternative.
As Ryan notes, it was during Sam’s stay in the children’s hospital that the family was made aware of the vital need for the scanner in the hospital.
Ryan said: “Sam received excellent care during his illness. However, it came to our attention during this time that the hospital is the only children’s hospital in the UK without an MRI scanner.
“Children who need to have scans have to be transferred to the main Royal Hospital or elsewhere to have the necessary scans for diagnosis and often the demand exceeds the availability. The waiting time puts families under even more stress.”
He continued: “Most importantly, early diagnosis of any illness is crucial and a scanner at the hospital would benefit all sick or injured children in Northern Ireland, not just those suffering from cancer.
“Anyone who has had an MRI scan will know that experience can be a scary one, so to have specially trained staff in a child friendly environment would be of great benefit to the children.”
Having campaigned tirelessly since February 5, Ryan and Grant, both 19, have already raised over 30 per cent of their target amount and have recently stepped up their campaign further.
They have managed to secure the backing of Colombia Sports Therapy and Fitness Centre and a collection bucket has been placed in both the Lurgan and Banbridge gyms. Collection buckets and boxes are also available in other local businesses including Trespass in Rushmere Shopping Centre, Urban Rose hair and beauty in William Street, Portadown and the Spar and Subway on the Lough Road.
Donations can be made online at www.justgiving.com/forsammarathon.