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NHS 75! Maxine’s memories: as a patient and mother

A young brother and sister play while sat on a sofa on holiday.
04 July 2023

Maxine’s memories of Sheffield Children’s began in 1967, as a patient herself when she was brought to the hospital as a small baby. Maxine’s experiences with Sheffield Children’s continued until 2012 as a mother to two children. She’s here to share her story on the 75th anniversary of the NHS.

Maxine tells us about her experience with us: “I was 13 weeks old and had a collapsed lung, pneumonia and had stopped breathing. Between 1967 and 1979 I had multiple stays at Sheffield Children’s.” Maxine also recalls staying on one ward with around eight other children all with breathing difficulties.

She said: “This was my first experience of attending school in hospital. The staff and teachers were always kind and patient. I believe I was in for a few weeks.

Maxine and her children cuddle the family dog while sat on the floor of the kitchen“I do remember looking out of the windows at night when all the streetlights were on and the nurse trying to show me where I lived which I found it comforting as I had 3 siblings so mum couldn’t always visit.

“I always remember there was a metal sign outside the Hospital and a little shop where you could buy things.”

Maxine and Olivia at Sheffield Children’s

Maxine would go on to have two children cared for at Sheffield Children’s. Her daughter, Olivia, was born in 2003. Early scans at Maxine’s local hospital suggested that her baby would have problems with her feet.

“At the final scan I was told “the baby has deformed feet and will never walk without surgery” and to wait until the birth.

 “Because of the fact Sheffield Children’s had saved my life on multiple occasions I went straight to my doctor and asked for a referral to Sheffield (for her baby).”

Shortly after, Olivia was born, and diagnosed with bilateral talipes – meaning it affected both of her feet. Congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV) – or just talipes – is a foot abnormality, in which the foot points downward and inward.

After the birth Maxine needed to go back to her local hospital after Olivia had lost 16% of her body weight. There she was kept in an incubator for a few days until ready to move on – “the nurse held a little cup of formula milk and she lapped it up like a kitten,” Maxine explained.

Three weeks later, Olivia and Maxine were under the care of the Orthopaedic team at Sheffield Children’s.

Olivia was treated by the team using the Ponseti method which is the internationally recognised gold standard treatment for children with CTEV. The goals of treatment are to achieve a functional, pain-free foot, the ability to wear normal shoes and the avoidance of permanent disability.

Our orthopaedic consultants all have specialist knowledge and expertise in the management of CTEV. Sheffield Children’s is also a major centre for training the next generation of paediatric orthopaedic surgeons, having trained many of the top surgeons in the UK and abroad.

Maxine said: “The staff were amazing at explaining everything. Olivia had casts from her feet to her thighs for six week. I travelled in with her each week on my own, and the compassion from the staff was always incredible; they were patient and understanding. One particular nurse told me I should not have been doing this on my own as clearly she could tell I was not well, but I hadn’t understood that myself. I was later diagnosed with post natal depression.

Olivia proudly holds up a bronze medal. She's wearing a dance outfit with a headband.

“After the first pots were off her toes were all together, after originally being splayed out completely. Olivia didn’t walk until she was 18 months old as I had been told not to let her stand or try to walk. Once she was up and walking though it was amazing how far she had come, and you couldn’t tell there had ever been a problem!”

Despite this troubled start, Olivia took up dancing as a hobby and spent time in dance schools alongside her education.

Maxine added: “Every year her dance school applied to compete as part of Team GB in the Dance World Cup. Olivia had never done anything like this before but her stamina was incredible, and her teacher and teammates were all so enthusiastic and talented. It was a dream come to true when all the hard work paid off and we flew to Germany in 2017, and they all came home with a bronze medal for Team GB. 

“That is something that we will never forget.”

Maxine and Alexander’s story

Lex is stood wearing a t-shirt and hoody smiling at the camera

Maxine’s son Alexander – Lex for short – was born in 2005.

She said: “He was a beautiful, happy little boy until December 2009 – when he complained at school of stomach pains. I took him straight to our GP who sent us to on to our local hospital.”

Maxine and Lex were then referred on to Sheffield Children’s so he could be diagnosed. The devastating news was that Lex had neuroblastoma cancer – which develops from specialised nerve cells (neuroblasts) left behind from a baby’s development in the womb.

Maxine explained: “Although we knew nothing, we would learn quick. The scans, operations, x-rays, and procedures over a four-year period were always done with care, kindness and love.

Lex is sat in a hospital bed with a staff member. He holds up a string of beads.

“Doctors, nurses, clinic staff and schoolteachers were always amazing, you could not ask for better care. I remember telling Lex that both Olivia and I had been treated at Sheffield Children’s too, it was his turn so he wouldn’t be frightened. I travelled over 30,000 miles up and down, at all hours, day and night, from home to hospital – always with a suitcase packed. 

“The care was exceptional but unfortunately the treatment failed and Lex relapsed. There are no words. Our last days at hospital were at the beginning of December 2012 when we were told there was no more treatment, and told about Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.”

Lex was the first child at Sheffield Children’s to receive the Beads of Courage.

Thank you to Maxine, Olivia and Lex for sharing your story, we really appreciate your support and for recognising many of the services provided by the wonderful NHS over recent years.

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