BERNARD MATTHEWS YOUTH AWARDS: Rena proud of her caring children
Ahead of the Bernard Matthew Youth awards on Tuesday, the Mercury speaks to the local youngsters and groups selected for their work...
RENA Spinks appears a typical cheery, supportive mum to her three teenagers.
But unlike most mums, she is also totally reliant on her children – and credits them for her still being alive.
For the childcare course leader at Great Yarmouth College suffers from acute asthma and is susceptible to severe allergic reactions that on seven occasions have led to her collapse and respiratory arrest.
Her children – Lauren, 19, Molly, 16, and William, 14 – have a well-established drill when they spot the tell-tale signs of their mum’s lips turning blue: reaching for her EpiPen adrenaline injector, dialling 999 for paramedics and running to a neighbour for help.
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They also take it in turns to sleep on the sofa downstairs near her in case she has an attack at night, and “spring clean” their home in Meadowsweet Road, Caister, every Saturday to remove every speck of dust that could trigger a reaction.
They would never dream of leaving her in the house on her own in case she has an attack that can be triggered by anything from an aerosol spray to a plant in the garden.
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Mrs Spinks, 39, has nominated her children for the EDP-supported Bernard Matthews Youth Awards.
And as finalists in the bravery category, they will attend the awards ceremony in Norwich, next week.
She said: “We can’t go on holiday or do anything as a family, but we are just a brilliant nuclear unit. I just want to highlight how special they are.”
Mrs Spinks said Lauren, a sixth former at Notre Dame High School in Norwich, was only seven when she had to contend with her first attack.
“We were an Army family living in Germany, but my husband, Alex, was away in Bosnia when it happened and Lauren had to ring for help,” she said.
Mrs Spinks, since divorced, said her most recent attack, brought on by gardening, happened last May.
She said: “I began to feel unwell; the kids got my oxygen and phoned the paramedics, but it happened really fast. They told the paramedics what to do and when I came round later at the James Paget Hospital, the young doctor said ‘you should not be alive; your kids are just amazing’.
“But when I say that to them, they just say ‘Oh Mum’.”
Mrs Spinks, who despite her condition, also runs a wedding creche business with her daughters, has just started a course of cutting-edge Xoair injections at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, designed to reduce her sensitivity to allergens.
Lauren, who is planning to study environmental science at university so she can investigate what causes allergic reactions in the atmosphere, said her mum’s condition had drawn them closer as a family.