One Daddy’s marathon efforts

Emmett Gillen with his children Caoimhe and Emmett. (0405PG21)
Emmett Gillen with his children Caoimhe and Emmett. (0405PG21)

This is the brave single father who has dedicated himself to running the Belfast Marathon to raise funds for the Northern Ireland Childrens’ Hospice.

Emmett Gillen almost lost everything in the last two years. His partner, Charmaine died in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2011. Tragically she left behind the couple’s two children, Emmett Jr and Caoimhe.

The loving mother had been celebrating her birthday when she passed away. Emmett has since dedicated himself to being the best father he can be.

Emmett, 8, is disabled and requires 24 hour care. He suffers from West Syndrome, can only communicate non-verbally and is confined to a wheelchair. His daddy said: “But he made his First Communion on April 22 which was also Caoimhe’s ninth birthday. It was a lovely day and all his teachers and cousins turned up to a party.

“Charmaine and I had always prepared ourselves for the worst. At times we thought we wouldn’t get that experience of his First Communion so I’m sure his mammy was looking down on us smiling.”

Due to his condition, Emmett Jr, had suffered up to 50 seizures daily. Emmett recalls: “The last one in August was really bad. Emmett was in intensive care for four days. For the first time Charmaine wasn’t there, so it was especially tough. Thankfully, due to the attention of his medical team, that was his last seizure and his condition is a lot more manageable now.” Due to the seriousness of his condition, The Childrens’ Hospice regularly offer Emmett Jnr. respite with one-to-one medical care. This Emmett Snr. says allows him time to devote to little Caoimhe. “She was here without us when we were in hospital so it is stressful for her also but she is a little saint. I can’t thank the Hospice enough for the care, assistance and attention they give us.”

It was for this reason that Emmett donated his First Communion money to the Hospice. “My Emmett wants for nothing and the work they do is invaluable not only to us but for hundreds of sick children. That is why I’m determined to run the Belfast marathon for them.

“I was 18 stone when Charmaine died. I realised I needed to get in shape for my children. I have totally changed my lifestyle around. I run daily and have lost four stone already; Not only in order to complete my first marathon but for my children. My family are a great support but it is just the wains and I, so I have to have the right mindset for them.”