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Dorset Dad takes on ultra-marathon for Gully’s Place

June 3, 2024

Nigel Holland

On Saturday 25 May 2024, 50-Year-old John McDermott laced up his trainers to tackle a 100km trail run from London to Brighton.

As he raced towards the finish line, it wasn’t just the sweat and blisters at the front of John’s mind. He was running in tribute to his son Alfie who sadly passed away in June 2018.

Alfie was just seven-years old when he was taken into Poole Hospital and treated for severe anxiety induced asthma but tragically, his airways did not open, and he unexpectedly died that day.

John and Jen McDermott and their wider family were supported by Gully’s Place – a service that has been developed to support children and young people with life-limiting conditions.

Funded by University Hospitals Dorset NHS Charity, Gully’s Place offers families a private place within a hospital setting, with the reassurance and comfort of having expert care at hand. Located on the children’s ward, the suite also provides home-from-home accommodation and a place of privacy and dignity for end-of-life care and newly bereaved families.

Jen said: “The time, the space, the amazing care and the privacy we were given through Gully’s Place is something so special to us. I can’t tell you how much that meant to us during those unbearable moments.”

“The facilities and set-up at Gully’s Place meant our youngest son, Harry who was only six at the time, could choose where he wanted to be that day but still be with his family. While we could say goodbye to Alfie, Harry had the time to process what was going on and was not forced to see Alfie until he was ready. All of this was made possible with Gully’s Place.”

And almost six years on, Alfie’s memory shines bright in the McDermott household with the warmest of memories and photos of Alfie’s unforgettable smile. While Alfie will remain in their hearts forever and the devastation doesn’t go, this loving family are hoping to help other parents who experience a similar tragedy or need this type of support.

John said: “I took on this crazy challenge to help raise awareness of Gully’s Place – a place we couldn’t have been without that day. I channel my energy into challenges like this as part of the forever grieving process – but this was by far, my biggest challenge yet!”

“I did it for Alfie and every parent out there whoever experiences the same tragedy as us and needs the support of services like Gully’s Place. People simply need to know it’s there.”

On Saturday 25 May, John was cheered on every step of the way by his wife Jennifer and their son, Harry (11 years) and daughter Maebha (4 years) as he approached the end of this epic race in Brighton.

Running by his side for the first half of this epic challenge was close friend, Jessica Richens who wanted to support Gully’s Place and the McDermott family.

Consultant urological surgeon, Tommy Johnson