Natalia set up Elizabeth’s Footprint just weeks after her five-year-old daughter died and has raised £250,000 for the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.
Elizabeth was taken ill at home in Cheltenham with a relatively common virus which triggered an autoimmune condition known as Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). This rare condition caused Elizabeth’s body to go into septic shock, shutting down her major organs and cutting off the blood supply to her limbs. Elizabeth spent 18 days on life support in Bristol Children’s Hospital, but despite doctors’ best efforts, she passed away on 10 December 2015.
Natalia’s Walk of Love
In an effort to bring something positive from her tragic circumstances, Natalia decided to combine the comfort she found at the coast with the therapy of walking. Starting on Valentine’s Day, Natalia’s ‘Walk of Love’ saw her cover 6,000 miles around the British coastline. The journey took 305 days, with people across the country donating an incredible £200,000.
To mark the second anniversary of Elizabeth’s death, Natalia laced up her walking boots again and took on an 80 mile walk in just 24 hours, across the Isles of Lewis and Harris. This walk was completed despite adverse weather conditions and Natalia suffering hyperthermia.
Natalia’s most recent fundraising challenge shone light on the huge geographical area that the Bristol Children’s Hospital covers as a specialist regional centre of paediatric care. Heading west from Cheltenham to Gloucester Royal Hospital, Natalia walked 1,000 miles in 70 days, passing through the far-reaching catchment area, and visiting 23 hospitals on her way – from Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro to Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth. Natalia arrived back at Bristol Children’s Hospital on what would be Elizabeth’s eighth birthday.
Natalia is currently planning her fourth ‘Walk of Love’ in Elizabeth’s memory and continues to fundraise for the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. To date, Elizabeth’s Star Tribute Fund has bought three ventilators for the unit, along with specialist equipment for the WATCh paediatric transport service.
Natalia said: “Retracing the last journey Elizabeth made to Bristol Children’s Hospital has been incredibly tough for me personally, but the support that I have received has kept me going through the most difficult of days. Throughout the journey, I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of local communities across the region that have helped me with accommodation, provided emotional support and most importantly spread the word about Elizabeth, keeping her memory alive.
“While my Elizabeth lost her battle to a rare, aggressive condition, I am grateful every single day for the level of care the staff at Bristol Children’s Hospital provided not just to her, but also to her family in an absolutely devastating time. I am determined to raise £1 million in memory of Elizabeth and will not stop walking until I have done so.”