Jenn Flaherty

This story is part of the Guts UK Pancreatitis Awareness Campaign.

On November 2018 Guts UK launched a campaign to raise awareness of pancreatitis and funds for research. Please help us by sharing this story on Facebook and on Twitter tagging @GutsCharityUK.

Jenn Flaherty’s Story

As someone who manages personal trainers for a living Jennifer Flaherty is no stranger to physical fitness. In August 2018 she took on the huge endurance challenge of her first Ironman Race in Copenhagen to fundraise for her Auntie Helen after she was diagnosed with pancreatitis. Read about her incredible story and motivations here.

“On the weekend of my Half Ironman race, in July 2017, my Auntie Helen was rushed to hospital with abdominal pain. Knowing nothing on the start line, Helen was soon in a critical condition, oxygen dependent and showing signs of sepsis. Over the next week she was transferred to intensive care, in an induced coma, suffering from sepsis, and multiple organ failure. Pancreatitis had taken a hold on her body. Over the next 7 months she underwent multiple operations to remove most of her bowel, pancreas and fluid from her lungs. Following excellent care from the staff at The Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, she made a slow but steady recovery, and other than a few hiccups, she is making progress with her rehabilitation at home.

Jenn Flaherty’s Auntie Helen before and after her pancreatitis attack

There is long road ahead for her and my family to go on, with her needing daily care for her drip feed, regular hospital appointments and future surgery planned later this year. She was planning to travel to Copenhagen to support me but won’t be strong enough to travel. Throughout my training, and undoubtedly during the race, her determination, will and humour over the last year are my guiding force.”

Jenn’s amazing family and friends all supported her throughout her race, as 23 of them wore Guts UK t-shirts with pride. Such loyal and proud supporters of Jenn, they even got a mention in the race commentary because of their presence! It was Auntie Helen’s messages, as she followed Jenn’s progress in the race from the comfort of her armchair, which provided all the encouragement Jenn needed to complete this epic race.

“I just kept telling myself that however hard this was for me, however much this hurt me, it wasn’t a patch on what Auntie Helen had gone through and if she could do it, then so could I,” said Jenn on her return. “I’ve felt what it is like to be the family member of a loved one struck down by pancreatitis and it is shocking to see. It is so difficult to feel utterly helpless, to find out there is still so much we don’t understand about the disease. This is why research is important and has to involve us all. We have to understand more so we can fight pancreatitis.”

To date, Jenn has raised a phenomenal £5,121 for Guts UK’s research, powered from her feeling of helplessness to become a true hero for her inspiration, her Auntie Helen. She is bringing further hope for everyone affected by this debilitating condition.

Jenn Flaherty at the finish line of the Ironman Race 2018

What can you do?

Join in our Kranky Panky Weekend fun and fundraise for more pancreatitis research with Guts UK. Check out some of our ideas here!

Or join Team Guts UK for 2019 challenges! We have places, so come on board! If you want to run Vitality Half Marathon, March 10th 2019 or cycle in Prudential Ride London 100 August 4th 2019 register here. Let’s go!

More information

Find out about acute and chronic pancreatitis in our Conditions section and read tips and suggestions on how to manage chronic pancreatitis from those affected by this condition.

Auntie Helen cheering for Jenn during her Ironman Race.