Dad completes triathlon to say thanks to hospital for saving son

A father has raised nearly £400 by undertaking an adrenaline fuelled triathlon to thank the hospital that saved his son’s life.

Monday, 7th October 2019, 9:41 am
John and his family

Sebastian Martin was born in September 2016 but it wasn’t until he suffered from a bad cold three months later that turned into Bronchiolitis (RSV) that doctors found he had a hole in the heart, a condition known as Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD).

His dad, John, from Polegate, said,“Sebastian was struggling to feed or put on weight. In December 2016 he became very ill and after passing out at home was rushed by ambulance to our local hospital. He spent his first Christmas there which was an extremely scary time for all the family and a lot for us to take in.”

The hole occurs in the wall (septum) that separates the two lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) that allows oxygenated blood and deoxygenated blood to flow through. This means that the lungs receive extra blood, causing the lungs and heart to work harder. This in turn meant he struggled to feed or put on weight.

John and his son Sebastian

Sebastian was referred to Evelina London Children’s Hospital and underwent open heart surgery at five months old.

John said: “So much goes through your head. We were very concerned about what our son was having to go through but we also had our then two-year-old daughter to think of. We struggled to explain to her what was happening and to make Christmas was still fun for her.

“Despite all of this, once referred up to Dr Aaron Bell at Evelina London we knew we were in safe hands. All of the staff were extremely helpful and calm and were happy to answer any questions or concerns we had.”

Though the hole in Sebastian’s heart was repaired successfully, months later he started to become very short of breath. Following further tests over the next year from Dr Bell and the Evelina London cardiology team, it was found that Sebastian would require another open heart surgery. In July 2018, at 22 months old, Sebastian underwent his second open heart surgery to cut away the scar tissue.

Sebastian in hospital

Supermarket manager John, 40, said: “Scar tissue had begun to form around the VSD patch in his heart, which was causing a narrowing of the artery, so the blood couldn’t pump out of the heart quickly enough.

“Even though we’d been in the position before and we had confidence that the surgery would be a success, the fear we had the first time around didn’t really go away.

“However, less than 24 hours after the surgery, Sebastian was running around the playroom on the ward like nothing had even happened. His recovery has been astounding. He’s just like any other little boy and has just celebrated his third birthday. You wouldn’t know that he’d been through such huge surgeries at such a young age.

“Our experience with Evelina London has been so overwhelmingly positive and we really can’t thank the cardiology team enough.”

John at the end of the triathlon

John took on Guy’s Urban Challenge on Saturday, September 28 to raise money for Evelina London, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The event involved a 2.5km run, 15km spin on a static Wattbike, and climbing the 628 steps of Europe’s tallest hospital building, Guy’s Hospital tower.

John said: “I thoroughly enjoyed Guy’s Urban Challenge and it was suitably challenging.

“I found the last 5K of the 15K spin tough, but I had my family next to me cheering me on, which really helped me push through to the finish as I started to tire.

“The 29 floors stair climb immediately after is super tough, as your legs are now drained from the run and spin.

“There is no way for friends or family to cheer you on, so you’re on your own to climb them, trying to convince yourself it’s not too much further. Inversely to the spin, it was the first half of the stair climb that I found the hardest.

“The sense of achievement at the finish is great. Knowing I’d given it my all to do my sponsors and the charity proud.”

As well as Sebastian, John was cheered on at Guy’s Urban Challenge by wife Julie, and their five-year-old daughter, Grace.

Dr Aaron Bell, who monitors Sebastian every six months, said, “It is fantastic that Sebastian has recovered so well following his second open heart surgery.

“It’s no mean feat to undergo two huge surgeries like this and it really is a testament to what a strong and resilient boy he is.”

To donate to John’s funraising page visit Evelina London cardiology service cares for around 6,000 children every year who have been diagnosed with a range of heart problems.

Evelina London is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The hospital was founded in 1869 as Evelina Hospital for Sick Children by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, whose wife, Evelina, died along with their baby in childbirth.

To find out more about Evelina London visit