A COUPLE are to run the London Marathon in aid of a diabetes charity after their nephew almost died from the disease.
Kelly and Ian Hargreaves were looking after Harri Douglas and his brother and sister when he fell ill suddenly and had to be rushed to hospital.
He only survived thanks to three days in intensive care after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
More than a year later, the 12-year-old from Binfield Heath is on the road to recovery and is looking forward to watching the Hargreaves run on April 21 to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Harri, a pupil at Gillotts School in Henley, was staying with the couple at their home in Newtown Gardens, Henley, in December 2011 while his parents Darren and Belinda were on a two-day Christmas shopping trip to York. Mr Douglas is Mrs Hargreaves’ sister.
When he fell ill, the Hargreaves took Harri to Townlands Hospital in Henley, where doctors found that his blood sugar level was more than eight times its normal level and told the couple to drive him straight to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading rather than wait for an ambulance.
Doctors at the Royal Berks confirmed that Harri had type 1 diabetes, which is where the pancreas produces no insulin.
Mrs Hargreaves, a mobile hairdresser, recalled: “It was very scary. He had been playing football during the day then suddenly he was deteriorating.
“The staff at A&E told me that Harri had one of the highest blood sugar levels they had ever seen.”
Mrs Douglas recalled: “When we got the call I did not know the severity of type 1 diabetes. I was really worried that my child was in hospital because I was not there but I did not think it would be so dramatic.
“On the day he fell ill he had played a full game of football, which the doctors say they can’t believe he did, even now.
“He came back to the house and was sick all night until there was nothing left to give.
“Kelly said he was shrinking in size before her eyes — he lost a stone-and-a-half overnight, taking him down to three-and-a-half stone.”
The Douglases, who have two other children, Charlie, 11, and Ava, two, drove back south and arrived at the hospital to find their son in intensive care. Mrs Douglas said: “He was on a drip as they were trying to put all the nutrients back in his blood and rehydrate him.
“I was asking them to do it as quickly as possible but they said that if they did that it would flood the organs and they had to see if there was any kidney damage. Luckily, there wasn’t.
“His pancreas had given up and his liver had kicked in but it was zapping all his fat cells so he ended up with acid in his blood. The team that admitted him came to see him the next day and could not believe he had survived.”
Mr Douglas, a painter and decorator, added: “It was touch and go for the first 24 hours. His blood sugar level should have been six and it was 52.”
Doctors told the couple that Harri had contracted diabetes several weeks before he fell ill, possibly as a result of a virus.
Mrs Douglas said: “Looking back, he had lost a little bit of weight but he had just started at Gillotts so I put it down to that.”
Harri, who spent a total of five days in hospital, now has to inject himself with insulin at least six times a day.
His mother said: “When they started bringing up needles I thought we would never cope. We still have days where we find it very difficult and so does Harri. It took him a long time, probably eight months, to regain the weight and he is still only five-and-a-half stone.”
Mr Douglas said: “We weigh all Harri’s food every night and he has an hour-and-a-half after injecting in which to eat.
“He will inject for his dinner and have an apple or banana and if he has eaten all that and is still hungry he has to leave it for two hours before he can re-inject, which he finds really hard. Because he is growing he is eating two meals a night, so that makes it even tougher to control his insulin.”
Harri, who plays for Rotherfield boys’ football team, said: “Having diabetes is really annoying and it gets in the way a lot. I tend to get quite shaky if I do not eat and I get a headache, so I have to keep little packets of Haribo [sweets] with me.”
Mrs Hargreaves, who has a daughter Millie, 12, said she wanted to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation because it is the only charity that is seeking a cure for diabetes in young people.
She said: “We want to get the message across about the seriousness of type 1 diabetes. Now we all know what a serious illness it is and the impact it has on Harri’s life with numerous visits to the hospital and days off school in a vital time in his education.
“The whole family has been affected by this and the last 14 months have been very hard.”
Mrs Douglas is “overwhelmed” by the Hargreaves’ decision to run the marathon.
She said: “Even though they are both quite fit people, I know this is pushing them to their extremes.
“It has been very emotional for all of us. Kelly was with Harri when he was diagnosed so I think they have a unique bond and a special closeness.” The Hargreaves, whose places in the race were confirmed on January 30, which is Millie’s birthday, have been gradually building up the miles they run in training.
“It is definitely easier to be doing it together and we keep thinking of Harri, which gets us through,” said Mrs Hargreaves.
“Harri is very pleased and grateful — he is a really lovely kid. I think he understands how much commitment it takes.”
Mr Hargreaves, a landscape gardener, said: “Although we started training quite late, we have hit it hard and I think we have caught up.
“We are trying to raise as much money as we can as they think there might be a cure for type 1 diabetes and the more money that can be raised the more likely that is. For Harri that is the way forward.”
Harri said: “It is great that my auntie and uncle are running and I am going to go to London to watch them cross the finishing line.”
To make a donation, visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/iankellyhargreaves