Cricket rivalry was put to one side by Surrey and Middlesex on Thursday to honour the life of “incredible” Florence Dunn, the daughter of Matt Dunn who died in March.
Surrey bowler Dunn led a team of runners from Lord’s to the Kia Oval on day one of the LV= Insurance County Championship fixture to raise funds for charity Dravet Syndrome UK.
Dunn’s daughter Florence was diagnosed with the rare and severe form of epilepsy, when she was 11 months old and died earlier this year at the age of two.
Both sides gathered before the start of play with Matt Dunn to show their support for his family & @DravetUK 💜
A big thank you to @Middlesex_CCC for the big part they have played in today.
— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) May 11, 2023
Former England Lions seamer Dunn and wife Jessica have decided to run 5k every day of May to raise funds and awareness of Dravet Syndrome UK, following the lead of Regional Pride of Britain winner Tamara Ward who started the ‘every day in May for Dravet’ challenge.
The Division One fixture between the London rivals has been dedicated to the charity with both teams warming up in special T-shirts showing a picture of Florence while commemorative caps have been signed by each member of the Surrey and Middlesex starting line-up.
These will now be auctioned off and Dunn alongside his team of runners received applause from the Kia Oval crowd when they walked onto the pitch before play resumed at 3pm having completed the 5k run from Lord’s ahead of lunch being taken.
Dunn had a long embrace with Surrey captain Rory Burns and hugged Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones with his current focus on fundraising and raising awareness of a serious form of epilepsy that affects one in 15,000 people in the UK.
“The awareness side is probably the biggest for us,” Dunn told Surrey’s YouTube channel.
“Because it is such a rare condition, really no one knew anything and even with epilepsy in general, it is such an unknown field,” Dunn reflected.
“Myself before our journey with Florence, I knew really very little. For me it is to shine a spotlight on the daily struggles and challenges people with Dravet Syndrome and epilepsy face.
“It is one of those quite isolating illness and one of those illness you won’t see on day to day life because the risk for people who have epilepsy, it is too great to risk in day to day activities.”
Life for the Dunn family was turned upside down following Florence’s diagnosis and a large chunk of the second year of her life was spent in hospital following life-threatening seizures, although new rescue medication had a transformative effect.
The medication meant soon after Florence’s second birthday, she could be treated instantly at home after a seizure and therefore recovered from them sufficiently quicker having previously endured seizures that lasted up to two hours during regularly trips to Milton Keynes hospital.
Dunn added: “At two we finally got rescue medication we could safely use at home and that transformed our lives for eight months.
“It meant we could give it to her straight away as soon as she started seizing at home and we were terminating the seizure within a minute or two. It was huge for her and her recovery time.
“It meant between illness or periods of her being run down, we were able to get out and do all the things every child should be doing. For that eight months it really gave us a life of enjoyment and we saw a change in her.”
The danger with Dravet Syndrome and other forms of epilepsy is the risk of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), which happened to Florence on March 11.
It left the Dunn family heartbroken but after watching Florence repeatedly defy doctors expectations by walking and talking, they draw inspiration from her strength.
“As a character she was pretty incredible. She was a character who loved life,” Dunn reflected.
“That showed throughout her whole time and even during hospital stays, she would wake up and be straight at the door of the ward and think, ‘I am better now, let’s go home and let’s get on with life.’
“It has really given strength to me and my wife for what we’re doing now because all the barriers she had throughout her whole life, she never once let it define her and for me to have that strength now is huge.”