[Lashara van Heerden | Contributing Writer]
Lecturer Simon Vinnicombe is setting the bar high for dads by having recently run not one, but three marathons back to back to raise awareness for his son, George, who has Type One Diabetes. Between writing a play, working on his upcoming film, teaching Creative Writing and being his son’s hero, Vinnicombe would also like to help raise awareness about his son’s disease.
On Thursday 12th of November, the day before World Diabetes day, Vinnicombe started the first of his three marathons at 3am and finished at 3:30pm, having completed a whopping total of 78.6 miles in 12.5 hours.
It all started when George, now three and half, was six months old and went to A&E for what was assumed to be a chest infection, only for Vinnicombe and wife Tracy to find out five hours later that George was in critical condition. He recalls the ‘unreal’ and ‘awful dream’ of watching his son in the ambulance and the ‘realisation’ of what it could mean if they lost him. Vinnicombe lost two and a half stone in five days from all the adrenaline and stress, and recollects being ‘in fight mode all the time’. There was a danger of brain damage and George had been unconscious a few days.
Vinnicombe recalls that whilst holding him George ‘looked at me’ and Vinnicombe knew immediately the look of recognition and the feeling of knowing ‘it was him’; there was no permanent damage. George is just like any normal three year old, except he has a mini computer, which looks a bit like mobile phone, attached to his body that regulates his insulin. The cannula, which is a needle tube, needs changing every three days. Diabetes for George means a lot of needles. To be exact it means 10,000 finger pricks and 350+ cannulas.
In order to regulate his blood sugar levels regular blood tests are done. There is ‘nothing he can’t have’, but they do have to be ‘smart’ about what they give him. It can be quite ‘frustrating’ as a parent having to ‘hover over him’ while he is playing a game to check his blood levels. George is ‘very good’ about it all as he ‘understands’, but things that ‘get him down’ are changing the needles every couple of days as it hurts.
Vinnicombe humbly boasts that George is ‘incredible’ and that he is an ‘extremely bright and sensitive boy’. Vinnicombe thinks George is a ‘much, much better version’ of himself. It is not surprising then that the concerned father was determined to do something to help his son.
Diabetics that have poor control of their blood sugar are at a high risk of damaging their organs or losing their sight. Vinnicombe believes that ‘if people shout loud enough’ then the world will listen and find a cure. His ambition is to be a part of helping that happen sooner. Through social media, blogging and video Vinnicombe has tried to get Diabetes the attention it needs. He knew that ‘a bake sale’ or a marathon wouldn’t be enough and that it had to be ‘extraordinary’ to get the public’s eye. That’s when he decided three marathons would ‘grab peoples attention’ and it did.
Vinnicombe and George are very close. When George explains who his list of friends are like ‘Charlie and William, and Mummy’ they are all his friends, but ‘Daddy is my hero’. Vinnicombe says being George’s hero has nothing to do with the running, but rather that he has been lucky as a writer to be able to spend time with him and form that bond with his son. George ran the last 30m with his dad at the end of the tri-marathon.