Tag Archives: PAH

Sam Snelling – A man on a mission

Sophie Locke talks to Sam Snelling, a man on a mission to make a positive difference in Harlow

“It was like I was bitten by something – seeing actual, physical success shook something up in me and I was thinking of more and more ways to spread this good feeling.”

Sam Snelling

Many of us have fallen victim to a mundane pace of life; eat, sleep, work repeat. We look forward to those last remaining moments of a Friday afternoon, the hiss of a beer opened at precisely 6:02 and the promise of two whole days living exactly as we please.

For most of us this weekly ritual is enough and one that we don’t veer from for years. But for some, either through choice or by chance is thrown a curveball and it’s their reaction and adaption that shapes the rest of their lives.

Sam Snelling, 30, from Harlow, was plunged into such a decision the moment his son Ralph was born two years ago; a long, arduous labour that on recollection Sam still cannot fully recall. “We were told we had nothing to worry about – at 20 weeks his scan showed baby was well, however we were told that the umbilical cord had just two vessels as opposed to the normal three, but we were told by the specialists that we had nothing to worry about and that it would be monitored throughout the pregnancy. Then as soon as Ralph was born lights started flashing and doctors filled the room from every corner; it was such a blur. ”


It’s a hard moment for Sam to describe and indeed what it would be like for most fathers who had to witness a traumatic birth. Until now, Sam’s wife and childhood sweetheart Nina, had experienced the type of pregnancy only ever seen in Hollywood movies. Sam recalls her glowing with joy at having their first child, relishing every moment before his arrival and eagerly anticipating the moment they became a family.  Neither Sam nor Nina had any implication what their future son had in store, and even as those lights flared across the maternity ward no one would know the changes that were destined for all their lives.

Ralph was born in May 2011 and after a long and difficult birth he swallowed meconium – faecal matter in the amniotic fluid – which caused his lungs to collapse, kidneys to fail, blood poisoning and to stop breathing. With regular tests for brain damage and any lasting ramifications Ralph spent the next six days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit receiving around the clock care, which Sam admits undoubtedly saved his sons life. Ralph has gone on to make a full recovery and despite being slightly smaller than other two year olds and with a weakened immune system, he is a lively little boy full of character.

Looking back on that moment, Sam can only recollect the panic and adrenaline that was soaring through him as a husband, but also now as a father. “You are meant to celebrating this extraordinary gift, but that was taken from us. Ralph was whisked away and we were left wondering where is our child, what are you doing to him?” But Sam’s paternal instinct had already kicked in and he raced off to be by Ralph’s side, returning less than an hour later to report to his wife that their son had been starved of oxygen.

It would be six days before Ralph was able to leave Princess Alexandria Hospital, with no further outward effects other than a weak immune system.

Ralphs’ tale at only two years old may seem a sad and painful one, but his fledgling life has had a profound effect on those around him, most noticeably his father.  Sam is the first to admit that before his son was born he lived what he a called, “a selfish life. I loved going out drinking, smoking, generally being a young bloke. I was in a good job and relished all of my freedoms.” Sam very much fit the cookie cutter image of a modern day twenty-something; self-obsessed, unashamed and carefree. And whilst some people can remain within this juvenile stronghold, Sam was hurtled into an existence that would never before have crossed his mind.

“I was sitting at work last year with some friends chatting about the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest race. We were joking about it, saying how ridiculously hard it was, but before we knew it we had all agreed compete in it. It was possibly the best, and worst, decision I ever made.”

The Survival of the Fittest race is a unique assault course held throughout the UK which is both physically and mentally demanding. There’s mud, deep water ravines, tractor tyres and climbing walls with some added mud thrown in. Sam had to completely change his life; no more smoking or late night benders and a massive goodbye to junk food.  “It was a natural progression,” Sam explains, “I needed to start running so I could not pig out the night before a big run. Then smoking was making it hard to breathe or focus properly and then suddenly, I was in the best shape of my life.”

With the help of his friends, Sam raised over £700 for the Princess Alexandria Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Ecstatic with their success, both on and off the course, Sam started his own mission – to help the unit that saved his sons life.

“It was like I was bitten by something – seeing actual, physical success shook something up in me and I was thinking of more and more ways to spread this good feeling.”

Sam openly admits he can never repay the gratitude he feels for the men and women who saved his family, but he’s giving it a damn good go at it. In less than a year, Sam and friends have raised over £8000 smashing his target of £7000 by the end of the year. There has been leg waxing, shaved heads courtesy of Labour’s Ian Beckett’s follicles and planned half marathons, curry evenings and quiz nights for later in the year; all of which are advertised via his Twitter page @sams_misson.


Sam likes to keep things simple – a physical challenge that can bring people together; push yourself, but push others around you into action. This isn’t just about giving financial support, but giving your time and energy which more often than not counts for much more.

One of the greatest outcomes for Sam personally, is that it’s opened up a door for his friends and other men to talk about their experiences surrounding family life. “It’s hardly a secret that man are useless when it comes to talking about feelings, but once I spoke to my mates about Ralph, about why I wanted to run marathons in the rain, they all felt the same in some way.”

Sam doesn’t dwell too much on the emotional changes he has faced – as he said, he is a bloke – but he does admit that it’s great to see some positive outcomes in Harlow. “Without being corny, it’s nice to be nice, and even nicer to see that positivity spread. I feel like I found out just in time how great it is to do these crazy, awesome things and I want other people to experience that.”

Sam has achieved in a year what some people often only dream of doing, and all because of one critical hour he had to face two years ago. “Looking at me in my twenties, I would have laughed off any notion of me holding a quiz night, or running nearly 30km a week, but now it’s nothing. It’s a cheesy line, but if I can do, anyone else sure as hell can too.”


Donations to Sam’s Mission can be made through Just Giving, or visit the Sam’s Mission website for details of upcoming events.