Claire Burke and holds almost one-year-old Tori up for the camera

It’s almost a year since Claire Burke went into labour while in traffic during the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon. She feared she’d give birth in the car – until a Red Cross ambulance appeared.

As Mother’s Day approaches, she reflects on that day and how the actions of two Red Cross volunteers mean that this year, she and her family can celebrate it together.   

Claire’s story: the day of the Manchester Marathon

For me, Mother’s Day is all about enjoying time with family. Over the last few years, mine has been spent with my nine-year-old daughter Mia, my partner and my mum.

Last year was no different. I was eight months pregnant with my daughter Tori at the time, so we were all preparing for our new arrival as a family.

Little did I know that just a couple of weeks later I’d be facing every expectant mum’s worst nightmare.

Going into labour

I woke up on the morning of 10 April a few days overdue and with some very mild pains, but nothing too serious. So I got in my car and headed off to my mum’s for breakfast with Mia.

During the journey, I found myself caught up in the road closures and diversions in place for the Manchester Marathon.

Suddenly the mild pains I’d been feeling began to get worse and more frequent. I had thought at first that it was just Braxton Hicks (false labour), but it soon became clear as I moved from one closed road to the next that I was in labour.

I must have been driving for about an hour when I realised I was close to giving birth. I pulled over and called over one of the marathon marshals for help on how to find my way through the route to a hospital, but she told me she didn’t know the area that well.

The sinking feeling I felt when I realised I was stuck is impossible to describe, and Mia was getting more and more upset as she could see I was in so much pain.

Then, all of a sudden, a British Red Cross ambulance appeared. The two men inside, Nigel and Stuart, were Red Cross first aid volunteers, on duty for the marathon.

A lot of what happened over the next few hours is a bit of a blur, but I remember Nigel taking my bags out of the car and parking it up for me to make sure I didn’t get a ticket. They calmed Mia down, and we drove in the ambulance to St Mary’s Hospital.

‘I dread to think about what might have happened’

My mum and my partner joined me at the hospital when I arrived, so they were there in time for the birth.

But getting stuck in the traffic disruption wasn’t the only complication: during the labour, my baby girl, who we named Tori, got stuck.

I was lucky that by that point I’d got to hospital and the staff there helped to ensure her safe arrival. But I dread to think now about what might have happened if Nigel and Stuart hadn’t come along and helped me to get there.

The reunion

Red Cross volunteers Nigel and Stuart with Claire and baby Tori

Because of the nature of the birth, I didn’t get the chance to thank Nigel and Stuart. So I was really glad to be reunited with them at my home after the Manchester Evening News ran a successful appeal to track them down.

They brought flowers for me and toys for the girls, and Mia got the chance to sit in the ambulance again. It’s an experience I think she’ll always remember – whenever she sees a British Red Cross logo or collection box she always tells me to donate.

A Mother’s Day to celebrate

This year me and the family are preparing for a Mother’s Day with a difference – due to a bit of a calendar mix-up.

We’re taking the girls to the Harry Potter studio tour in London and we only realised recently it falls on the same day. But I’ve got into the stories myself, so hopefully it will be a special day for me, too!

Above all, what happened to me during Tori’s birth makes me really grateful for having a happy, healthy family, who I can celebrate Mother’s Day with.

This is our first with Tori, and her safe arrival is thanks in no small part to the help given to us by Nigel and Stuart. They’re still part of the family and always in our thoughts.

And I hope if they’re volunteering at the marathon again this year it’s a little less eventful for them!

The Manchester Marathon

This year’s Manchester Marathon takes place on 2 April where Red Cross staff and volunteers will again be present providing first aid along the 26.2-mile course.

It is one of the biggest sporting events the Red Cross will attend this year.

This piece was written by Rachael Dry, media relations officer.