Marathon dad helps those who helped him

1 London

London News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search

For parents who lose sons or daughters, there is never any running away from it. There comes a time when the sadness and grief may lose some ground, but it never really disappears.

So it was for Neil and Haylie McKay with the loss of their son Jacob. On Oct. 23, 2014, Haylie gave birth to the McKays’ first child, Jacob. Jacob was diagnosed in the womb with Potter’s Syndrome, a disease that is fatal. Jacob did not survive birth.

Even if he had survived, the disease would have claimed him quickly — it prevents the proper development of the lungs.

Neil McKay says he rarely remembers the exact words anyone says to him but he remembers the words the doctor used.

“Sitting by my wife’s side, we were informed that ‘your baby has something called bilateral renal agenesis, or Potter’s Syndrome. This is what is termed, a lethal diagnosis,’ the doctor said,” McKay explained.

It was found during the couple’s second ultrasound. The idea that they may have a few hours with their baby and not liking the idea of terminating the pregnancy, they decided Haylie would carry the baby to term.

A year later Haylie gave birth to a girl they named Hadley. Hadley was admitted to the pediatric critical care unit when she was six days old due to complications from jaundice.

“Fortunately, due to the tremendous care at the Children’s Hospital, she made a full recovery,” Neil McKay said.

Parents never forget the suffering of their children. They never truly get over the loss of a child.

But McKay decided he wasn’t going to run from the grief; he was going to run for Jacob, for Hadley and for the Children’s Health Foundation.

This September McKay will run the That Dam Hill Ultramarathon in London, hoping to raise as much as $24,000 for the foundation.

It’s a 24-hour marathon with runners trying to complete as many laps as possible.

“I’m hoping to be able to run 100 to 120 kilometres,” McKay said.

The Children’s Health Foundation supports the Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Health Research Institute, and the Thames Valley Children’s Centre.

McKay, an elementary school teacher in London, took up running before Jacob was born. He ran his first marathon, the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, only days after they got the diagnosis on Jacob.

“We talked a lot about it and since we had the hotel booked, we thought getting away for a few days would be good,” McKay said.

He wasn’t sure he was going to run. In the end he did, thinking of his baby.

His aim was to finish in less than four hours. He stopped his watch crossing the finish line. It read 4:00.01. “When we were driving home Haylie looked at the official results. I was listed at 3:59.59,” McKay said.

The McKays decided they weren’t going to simply live through this horrible time. They took pictures of a pregnant Haylie. After his marathon run, they went to Springbank Park and took pictures. It was their way of creating memories. Haylie didn’t want to act like the baby was already gone. They wanted to do things as a family.

“It helped,” Neil said. “It’s still hard. There are still some bad times, but we get through it.”

The Children’s Hospital has a lot to do with that.

“We’re pretty lucky to have the facility that we have in London,” McKay said. “I started to think about (running the day-long marathon) this last summer . . . What happened to Jacob gave me the impetus to do this. We often take for granted (having good health and healthy kids.). I don’t know how we got through it. But my wife and I somehow got through it. The hospital gave us so much support, as did our families.” 

How you can help

For more info: Read all about Jacob and the rest of the McKays at

To donate: visit

1 London

London News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search



Leave a Reply