Connor goes the extra mile to say thanks for hospital care

Bandages boy. From left, Douglas Mackay, Cheryl Johnstone (staff nurse), Connor Mackay and Louise Wilson (student nurse).
Bandages boy. From left, Douglas Mackay, Cheryl Johnstone (staff nurse), Connor Mackay and Louise Wilson (student nurse).

BANDAGED for hours at a time and covered in special creams to protect his ravaged skin, 10-year-old Tweedbank schoolboy Connor Mackay is sadly no stranger to doctors and hospital wards.

Diagnosed with Atopic Eczema, the youngster could be forgiven for feeling life had dealt him a difficult hand. But rather than sitting round and letting it get him down, Connor has spent much of the past year running long-distance races alongside his dad, Douglas, to raise money for the Borders General hospital’s children’s ward and dermatology department.

The cash is being earmarked to buy Nintendo DS computer games, so that children in similar predicaments to himself can have something to take their mind off the arduous hospital treatment sessions.

Connor, a pupil in primary five at Tweedbank Primary, wants to have run the equivalent of two marathons – more than 50 miles – by November this year, through a series of 10k and 5k race events across Scotland.

He took up running last year when he started going out with his dad jogging, and the duo decided to dedicate all their running in 2011 to fundraising for the two departments at the BGH.

Last year, the father and son team raised £150 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, before taking part in a series of fun runs, including the Borders Fun Run at Melrose, JogScotland events at Dryburgh Abbey and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, a five-kilometre run at Inverness, as well as the 10-kilometre Reindeer Run at Glamis Castle in Angus.

But this year, Connor and Douglas have set their sights a bit higher, entering the 5K run scheduled to take place at Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire on April 17, followed just a week later by the 10K Run Balmoral event on the Queen’s Highland estate on Saturday, April 23.

“Connor’s aim is to raise £1,000 by November of this year. He wanted to do something for the hospital and to raise awareness of dermatology conditions,” Douglas explained this week.

And he told The Southern how, up until recently, Connor had to be bandaged on days when his skin was painful with special tubi-grip bandages.

“However, he can now wear special tubi-grip clothing which is making a difference,” his dad said.

“Connor can also self-administer some of his own medication, although we do have to take a medical bag with us whenever we go on holiday,” he added.

And Connor’s dad went on to say that his son not only has to endure the difficult treatment for his skin condition, but often tactless and unthinking comments from others.

“When he is bandaged up, some people have made harsh and unfeeling remarks because they think Connor has something contagious.

“That is totally unnecessary, he is just a 10-year-old boy desperate to live a normal life like everyone else.

“It has been soul-destroying for us – me, his mum Anne and big sister, Samantha – but as parents you just have to learn how to manage it on a day-to-day basis.”

Douglas says Connor is managing to attend school as best he can and relies on the support of family and friends.

“He is focused on his running and just wants to give something back as a way of saying thank you to the staff at the Borders General Hospital – and also to do something to help others suffering from the same conditions,” Douglas told TheSouthern.

“And I think he’ll reach his target – Connor is nothing if not determined!”

Anyone interested in donating to this cause can donate online at www.justgiving.com/connor-mackay