October 23, 2023
As a former AFL player and now ultra-marathon runner, Heath Hocking is very familiar with pushing his body beyond physical boundaries, but none more emotive than his latest endeavour for a cause close to his heart
Hocking, who played 126 for Essendon in a 10-year career, took on a grueling 24-hour marathon challenge running and walking along the banks of the Maribyrnong River on the weekend to raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation’s Walk for Epilepsy fundraising campaign.
Hocking completed 180km during the 24-hour marathon effort, with friends and family running alongside him, particularly through the early hours of the morning, finishing around midday on Sunday.
“I’m proud of myself for committing to the challenge, and completing it really strongly,” he said.
“It was very difficult especially the last six hours. The enormity of the task was at times hard to comprehend.
“It’s super important to raise awareness and money for people living with epilepsy. We know that we were lucky and Roman showed so much strength and determination to fight through But there are many other families that aren’t so lucky and that’s why for the last couple of years I have been trying to raise money to support them and do what I can.
Almost three years ago, at just 6 months of age, Hocking’s son Roman began suffering from infantile spasms, later to be diagnosed as West Syndrome, a form of childhood epilepsy.
“Just one day out of the blue Roman had an episode which scared the hell out of me and my wife Luisa. Not knowing what to do we rushed straight to the Children’s Hospital. Being right in the middle of COVID lockdown only one parent was able to be in the hospital with Roman as he was seen by multiple doctors,” Hocking recalled.
“So for more than two hours I waited in the car park as Luisa waited in the hospital with our beautiful 6 month old son.
“To say this was hard was an understatement. After this visit and no other episodes that the doctors could see we left and were told to monitor him and video anything else that was to happen. For the next week Roman would experience a seizure at least once or twice a day.”
Hocking says these seizures could last between 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, prompting numerous neurological tests and assessments by neurologists and leading to the diagnosis of West Syndrome, one the more than 60 types of epilepsy.
The Walk for Epilepsy event is a national, online fundraising campaign that runs from October 1 to 25, raising money to support the 1 in 25 Australians that will be diagnosed in their lifetime.
Participants have walked, ran, and cycled around their local neighbourhood, beaches, walking trails, mountain trails or on the treadmill, to raise funds for services and increase awareness of epilepsy.
Funds raised will help the Epilepsy Foundation to continue supporting people living with epilepsy as well as their families, carers and support networks.
Donations can be made at https://www.walkforepilepsy.org.au/fundraisers/heathhocking/vic-nsw