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A milestone birthday celebration with a difference

27 February 2020

A dad is celebrating his 40th birthday by walking a charity half marathon after medics discovered his daughter Poppy was critically ill, during routine blood tests.

Gavin Lancaster is taking his first steps to finding out if he is a compatible organ donor for Poppy, two, who is on daily dialysis until she can have life-saving transplant surgery.

Meantime, dad of four Gavin, has arranged the walk to raise funds for research into treatments for kidney disease, which affects three million people in the UK. One million of those don’t know they have it.

Gaving and Poppy Lancaster
Poppy and dad, Gavin Lancaster

Gavin, of Hartlepool, said: “It was only by chance we found out Poppy had kidney problems, during allergy blood tests for both twins. Not only did it come as a shock, but we could not believe she had no kidney function and had become critically ill, despite still being a bright, bubbly little girl.

“Her kidney hadn’t formed properly and was covered in cysts. It’s a miracle she is alive.”

When the identical twins were eight weeks-old they were diagnosed as dairy intolerant. Then, when they were 18 months old (in May 2019) they both had further food allergy tests at Hartlepool Hospital, Gavin said.

gavin Lancaster
Gavin Lancaster with twins Poppy and Violet

“We noticed Violet would recover from colds and bugs quickly but Poppy always seemed to be poorly for a lot longer. It felt like something wasn’t right, but we didn’t know what,” said children’s entertainer and teacher, Gavin.

“After the allergy tests, we came home thinking everything was fine. However, four hours later the phone rang. It was a doctor from North Tees who sounded in a bit of a panic. He told us there was a problem with Poppy’s kidney and she was seriously poorly. We had to bring her into hospital as soon as possible.

“We made our way to the North Tees Hospital 20 minutes away. My wife Becky, 37, took Poppy inside while I waited outside in the car with our other children Gabrielle 13, Higham 7, and Violet, 2.

“Less than half an hour later the phone rang. It was Becky who said, take the phone off speaker, I need to tell you what’s happening. I knew this was bad.”

Poppy was critical. She had suffered total kidney failure and an ambulance was preparing to take her to the RVI Children’s Hospital in Newcastle.

“My anxiety kicked in,” Gavin said. “We spent frantic minutes making phone calls to sort childcare for the other kids while Poppy and Becky made their way to Newcastle in an ambulance.

“When I got there the medical team were waiting for us. By the morning Poppy was on dialysis. She was in end stage kidney failure.

“After nearly six weeks she came home. We turned the twins’ bedroom into what looked like a hospital room and were trained in how to give her dialysis at home. For 10 hours a night, six nights a week, Poppy was hooked up to the dialysis machine.

“She is not on the donor list yet, but I am hopeful I will be a match for her. I am more compatible than Becky, so that’s why I will do it.

“Poppy is a typical toddler and Violet is just a bigger version! Poppy is lively, active and happy. None of this phases her. She can get tired and when that happens, she just curls up to take a nap. She is amazing on many levels.”

Poppy’s big sister Gabrielle has already raised more than £300 for Kidney Research UK by having her hair cut off – she donated 12 inches of her locks to Little Princess Trust. Meanwhile, dad Gavin’s challenge is at the end of March, walking with his friend Jon Hill, a retired army officer.

“We will have a party at the school at the end. I have never done a challenge as big as this. It is going to be my best milestone birthday yet!” Gavin said.

To find out more or to support his challenge follow Gavin’s Go Fund Me page.

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