Thursday, 11 February 2016

All About Kim and her #16in2016 Charity Challenge

Hello everyone! 

Today I'm featuring local mum Kim Vallis here on my family lifestyle blog. She's a 30 year old mum who's just started an epic journey to complete 16 sporty challenges in 2016 whilst raising money & awareness for charities close to her heart.

Here's her story in her own words...


People say that having a baby when you are younger, say in your twenties, is easier than in later years. You have a young body, more energy and you can bounce back after birth. Personally, having a baby in my twenties was anything but easy and life alongside it was worse.

I gave birth when I was 23 years old and in an abusive and violent marriage. The relationship had always been volatile although without hindsight, I never knew how badly it had got until I look back; I didn't realise at the time I was suffering domestic abuse. I thought I was a bad wife, that I caused the arguments and that I pushed my luck; I felt sorry for my ex-husband and I wanted to fix him. The abuse went from bad to worse during the pregnancy and after giving birth, it hit a whole new level. With a baby of four months old, I fled the marital home with nothing more than the clothes on my back, a changing bag and the buggy. My parents were good enough to put my son and me up for a few weeks whilst I sorted things out. With a routine visit from my heath visitor a week into my stay, it all suddenly became shockingly clear what I had escaped from and how I was a victim of Domestic Abuse. My health visitor referred me to 1:1 counselling as well as an educational workshop, run by a local charity called Survive, The Freedom Programme. This 12 week course changed my life; it educated me on what I was experiencing, gave it names and made me feel in control again. I had strength to fight my abuser for a divorce as well as through the court system regarding child access, with the assistance of a trained Survive IDVA. Survive gave me courage, knowledge and support at a time when I had lost my identity and lost my way.

After a couple of years, my life had settled into a comfortable and predictable routine of part time work, toddler groups and a safe home. Getting through the storm gave me an opportunity to focus on other parts of my life I had neglected; myself and my body. Jumping around in soft plays and at kids parties on the bouncy castle with a toddler had started a secret about my body that I pushed to one side when coughing and sneezing. With a hyperactive 3 year old, I couldn't hide myself away from the bouncy, jumpy, strenuous activities that he and his peers like to do and it came to the crunch with wet knickers at a kid's party when I had to seek help for another problem: Stress Urinary Incontinence. Great, I was 26 years old and had to wear Tena Ladies designed for post-menopausal women! How embarrassing it was, walking into the GP's room and telling her all my wet knicker stories of stuck wellies, lifting shopping bags and messy coughs and colds. I had done pelvic floor muscle exercises as I was told to do after having my son, but obviously I didn't do them well enough. The GP referred me to a SUI Nurse at the local health centre who kindly tried her best with what she was given. However with electro-pulse therapy and exercises, my pelvic floor was past the point of no return. After a year, I was referred to an Uro-gynae team who offered a quick and easy repair with a mesh sling called a TVT. Brilliant! It sounds great doesn't it, non-evasive surgery with great results and no side effects. I was booked in and looked forward to being an active mother, able to conquer the biggest soft play slide and bounciest bouncy castle.

The pain was horrendous when I came round from the anaesthetic, so much so I was on morphine and it still only just took the edge off. Surely this would calm down? Nope. For months I tried to see the surgeon for my post-op appointment for him to have a look and see what was wrong. There was a lump in my groin near to where the TVT tape was positioned and touching it, even clothes rubbing it, cause electric and fiery pain. I was also suffering with visual migraines which at the time was associated to the contraceptive pill, so I stopped taking it.

Eventually, after 18 months fighting my corner and investigations it was decided the lump was a loop in the mesh and that if the small bit of tape of excised, the pain would improve. More surgery it was and guess what, it only went from bad to worse with the pain. I had numb spots on my actual groin and shooting pain down the whole of my left leg. I could hardly walk, only limp, and driving the car with a clutch was impossible. The worse part of it was my wedding, to the love of my life Tony, was booked and only several weeks away. I rested with my feet up for weeks, taking nerveblocking painkillers called Pregabalin and coping as well as I could at work and at home. The week before the wedding I was in tears and eventually the surgeon offered an anaesthetic and steroid injection to just get me through the big day, as well as recommending a full removal of the TVT sling. Seriously?! What else could go wrong? It was at this desperate time I learn of a campaign called "Sling the Mesh" as one of its members was in the Daily Mail claiming the TVT surgery she had caused her the same symptoms and pain I was suffering. From the Sling the Mesh Facebook page, I also became aware of a local Bristol charity called TVT-MUM (Messed Up Mesh) which had even more information, advice, guidance, a forum and a local support group of ladies in the same boat. It was a relief to know I wasn't alone and thanks to the fantastic advice of the ladies, I had ideas and options on the next steps.

Tony's and my wedding day was a wonderful and happy day. I managed to walk down the aisle and wear high heels for part of the day, have a first dance and enjoy mingling with guests from one end of the venue to the other. The injection had worked for the Big Day but by the day after, it had worn off. So hubby and I moved forward with the plan to get the TVT mesh sling removed. I booked an appointment to see a recommended surgeon privately and the appointment was a bitter sweet experience. Yes, the mesh could be removed and the surgeon felt it would be successful considering my age (that "being young thing" again") for the nerve damage to be reversed, though it could take time. She would be able to do a quick fix using scar tissue to hold up, kind of splinting my bladder neck, so to reduce Stress Urinary Incontinence once the sling was out.

It all sounded perfect except for one tiny MASSIVE detail, I was pregnant. At very nearly 30 years old, it was not the plan to have an unplanned pregnancy albeit within a happy marriage. I was on Pregabalin, a painkiller which has risks for pregnancy. Shock, sadness, happiness, anger, confusion and fear swept over me in seconds and lasted weeks. 6 weeks pregnant and I had no idea how or what to do next apart from suffer without the painkillers and take high dosage folic acid to combat the potential effects the Pregabalin had on the foetus. The next four weeks were a mix of anxiety and happiness, our heads managed to get around being parents again and if Little Dot could get here despite the obstacles we put in her way, then we were routing for her all the way albeit with my leg pain getting worse and worse, day by day.

Panic. It was pure panic coming out of my mouth as I screamed down the phone at Tony that I was bleeding. It was heavy, bright red and not stopping. I should never have felt angry or upset when I found out about Little Dot. I took it all back in a prayer and apology, whilst in the car on the way to the hospital. Southmead Hospital's Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (E.A.P.U) was a weird place with seats, a water cooler and a big screen TV on the wall showing Cash in the Attic. It was a strange feeling of being in limbo, sitting and waiting quietly, with tummy cramps and bleeding whilst all around me other women and some partners were sat with their own feelings of apprehension. My name was called and Tony & I walked into a room with a sonographer and midwife. The scan was carried out in silence whilst the pair looked for signs of a healthy 10 week old baby. "How many weeks are you Mrs Vallis?" to which I replied that we were nearly ten weeks according to a scan I had four weeks prior, showing a 6 week old foetus.

Missed miscarriage. That's what it is called, the type of miscarriage we had. It's where the baby stops developing but your body retains the pregnancy for days, even weeks later. Some women sadly find out at their 12 week scan that their bodies have tricked them into feeling pregnant, when in reality, their baby died silently. Our Little Dot carried on being stubborn for a couple of weeks, then I had to make the difficult decision to have her removed surgically, an ERPC. After the procedure, we were able to hold her and say a prayer with the Hospital Chaplain. Although not natural, in one way, it was a peaceful closure to be able to say goodbye to our baby and goodbye to the reality that was no more. During this heartbreaking time, I logged into the Miscarriage Association website to look at the "normal" symptoms and outcomes of miscarriage. I found out there are so many different types of miscarriage and that so many women and their families go through this sadness and loss, 1 in 4 pregnancies in fact. I also explored their forum and found so many women in the same situation as me. Their advice, sympathy and empathy was incredibly meaningful and helpful to me. So much courage and strength, emptiness and guilt, in one safe quiet place. The Miscarriage Association helped me through. It gave me hope.

As soon as I recovered physically from the miscarriage, my next mission was to book my TVT removal surgery. On 5th December 2015, I was limping down a hospital corridor to my future and to the theatre. The surgery was a success and all looked great from the skilled surgeon's point of view (between my legs). I recovered incredibly well and although the pains became worse to begin with, the fiery hot electric pains eventually eased off. So much so that I stopped taking the Pregabalin after 4 weeks.

It's now 11 weeks after my TVT removal surgery and I feel 97% better, physically and mentally, than I did 8 months ago. The pains are milder and very few and far between, the movement in the my left leg has returned and I'm able to drive my manual car, walk down the road, and even run after my son. Okay, I do have some mild urinary leaking, but not a lot and not very often. Small mercy's as they say. So with this new found zest for life in my thirties, I want to say thank you to the charities that helped me through my tough and twisting twenties. 

Kimberley's Charity Challenges is my way of saying thanks to Survive, TVT-MUM, The Miscarriage Association and Southmead's EPAU. It's also a way to raise awareness of these "taboo" health matters that women and their families suffer in silence, in embarrassment, in guilt and in fear. I want to show people that there is life after sorrow and suffering and to fight on through life's challenges. I am undertaking 16 sporty challenges in the first part of 2016 and hoping to raise £1,000 through donations along the way.  I have already completed mini-motorbiking, swimming and rock climbing and have raised £300 so far. With a Just Giving donation page, Facebook and Twitter pages and YouTube channel, sponsors and donators can join in and watch the challenges undertaken. There is also an opportunity to vote for the 16th and final challenge with options of zip wire, abseiling and trapeze - not good for someone terrified of heights!

So that is my story, and my challenges. I hope to see you on my pages.
Thank you for reading


If you would like to make a donation to Kim's #16in2016 cause, please visit her Crowdfunding page HERE

You can also keep up to date with Kim's progress on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter



  1. I'm a bit lost for words! I think Kim is an incredibly brave person who really really hasn't been very lucky now has she??? Don't know if I could have coped with half of the things she had to go through! All I can do is send millions of hugs and watch her grow even stronger through this challenge! And go on her crowdfunding page :)

  2. What a brave lady to have gone through such a lot in her life. She should be super proud of herself and good luck with the 16in2016 challenge x