by Sonya Sommerfeld
A big congratulations to Richard Turpie for completing a 100km ultra-marathon around Hagley Park to raise funds for Hamilton-based Chase Porter. Chase is only one of 400 people in the world to have Barth Syndrome and is requiring a heart transplant to survive. The event took place on the 4th of June where nearly 200 other supporters ran laps around Hagley in support of Richard.
Over the last 18 months, Richard Turpie has been working at Milestone as part of an internship arrangement while studying at the University of Canterbury. The journey to run an Ultra Marathon started in lock down 2021 when Richard was reflecting on his previous experiences, and he felt that for the most part his achievements had been largely for his own benefit. He started looking for a way to give back to someone less fortunate when he came across a give-a-little page for Chase. Richard then looked at ways to raise money for the family and came upon the idea of running a 100km Ultra Marathon.
Richard contacted Chase’s parents, who were at first a little confused as to why a stranger from Christchurch would want to do this for them. Eventually, they felt overwhelmed by his generosity of spirit. Before training started, Richard contacted a running coach who created a programme for him so he could get to his goal. Over the last six months while training for the run, Richard has clocked up over 800kms while still working at Milestone, studying, organising the race, raising funds, and isolating from Covid.
As for Chase and the family it has been an horrendous time as Chase has battled this disease. Chase, who was born in 2017, was only two weeks old when his mother, Kelsi, took him to the emergency department as she believed there was something wrong with her new-born baby. After three hours doctors established there was a problem with his heart, and he was transferred to Starship Hospital. Kelsi was certain that there was a greater underlying issue with Chase’s heart after finding out that there was a family history of Barth syndrome. She asked doctors to test Chase, but the medical professionals believed it was unlikely that Chase could have this syndrome because it was so rare. Persistence from Kelsi lead to Chase finally being tested and eventually having her suspicion confirmed. The impact of Barth syndrome for Chase means that he can’t make white cells to fight infections and his heart is currently functioning at only 24% of normal. Richard described Chase as an incredibly determined individual with a love for life. Chase has astonished many of his health professionals in surviving to his current age. His family have remained positive and enthusiastic in support of Chase and giving him the best chance to live as near to normal a life as possible. They encapsulate everything of what it means to be great New Zealanders.
As Richard put it “Their story was a reflection point for me realising the complete insignificance of any problems we might face. We love to compare ourselves to others on social media, let's compare ourselves to something real. This isn't made up, this isn't melodrama, this isn't for social status, this is a child's life in the balance”.
The big day started at 2:45am for Richard when it was time to fuel his body for the ordeal ahead. Richard began running the 18 laps of Hagley Park at 5am in light frost which turned into a still and sunny winters’ day. Friends, family, work colleagues and strangers alike joined the run with Richard in support of Chase and the family. Richard described the run as a massive test of his physical and mental stamina. The best part was when Richard met up with Chase and the family for the first time 80km into the journey. When he saw Chase entertaining the crowd with his electric bike skills, this was a booster in what had become the toughest part the event. Richard was very grateful to have family, friends and Chase watching on as he struggled through the last 15km, finishing at 6:30pm and rounding off a massive 13 hours of running.
Richard explained what the funds raised are for by stating “during the transplant operation the family will have to relocate to Auckland leading to Kelsi (Mum) having 12 months off work. The operation will be covered under the Public Health System however ACC will not cover any other costs post operation”.
Chase and the family are extremely grateful for what Richard has been able to achieve with over $42,000 raised so far. If you would like to support this fantastic cause please click here to donate.