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Swimming champion takes on British Transplant Games this week

medal winning swimmer and sheffield children's patient ellie greenwood
27 July 2022

17-year-old swimming champion Ellie is getting ready to take to the water in this week’s Westfield Health British Transplant Games!

baby Ellie with green dummy and white gloves

Medal winning swimmer Ellie has been part of the British Transplant Games since 2006, first attending the games at 18 months old and competing since the age of two. Ellie, a patient at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and Leeds Children’s Hospital, received a liver transplant at seven months old in 2005 following a diagnosis of heptoblastoma (liver cancer).

Ellie said: “The games have been a big part of my life. Through the transplant games I have gained some close personal friends and an extended transplant family. I have met and made friends from all around the country, and even the world who are in the same position as me. It has helped me to experience and take part in a whole range of sports I probably wouldn’t have done without it.  I have also visited places and had experiences I would never have had if the team at Leeds hadn’t invited me to be part of the team.

“I probably would never have been able to say I am a British and World champion without Lisa and Celia and their team at Leeds and for that I am forever grateful.”

young ellie on race track

Ellie dove in head first to the games when she started, taking in lots of different disciplines from running events, ball throwing, obstacle races, badminton and swimming. Ellie took to a love of swimming and went on to represent team GB in Spain and Newcastle.

This July marks Ellie’s last year representing the children’s team, as she will compete with adults next year. She will still have an active role helping the children’s swim team by becoming their swim captain.

Tracy, Ellie’s mum, said: “As parents we love going to the games as it as nice to talk to people who have been through the same things. We also have Facebook chats and page so that of we need advice or help there is someone there to help. We always make sure we have time off to attend as it’s time to spend with our transplant family.”

Dr Anna Jenkins, Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital said: “I have known Ellie since she was first diagnosed with hepatoblastoma. It has been a real pleasure to hear about all her success stories at the Transplant Games over the years and great to see that she is now a role model and uses her experience to support younger patients through her role as Captain of the children’s swim team. Being active is so important for all of our health and well-being but can be difficult when you have had significant health needs. The Transplant Games is a great way of recognising and celebrating how much young people like Ellie can achieve.”

Celia McKenzie, Head of Nursing at Leeds Children’s Hospital and Leeds Children’s Transplant Team Manager: “Ellie is such an important member of Leeds Children’s Transplant Team and this year we’re delighted that she’s taken on the role of swim team captain – sharing her extensive competitive experience with other members of the team. It’s always such a joy to see one of our transplant patients grow and develop year after year, facing down the challenges that life puts in front of these young people. Ellie is an absolute exemplar of what the British Transplant Games is all about and we’re incredibly proud to have her on Leeds Children’s Transplant Team.”

smiling patient Ellie with her medals

Proud mum Tracy talks about the care her daughter Ellie received and her role in the Games

Following her Heptoblastoma diagnosis at Leeds Children’s Hospital, Ellie returned to Sheffield Children’s Hospital to undergo chemotherapy treatment to attempt to reduce her tumour.

Ellie’s mum Tracy, from Rotherham, said: “She underwent five courses of chemotherapy spending a week at a time in hospital where she was looked after amazingly by the Dr’s and nursing staff through what was a difficult time. We got to know the nurses well and eventually became friends with one nurse as we met her at the school gates when Ellie started school and she became friends with her son. They couldn’t do enough for us during this time.

“Unfortunately, the treatment at Sheffield didn’t work as hoped and the only way forward was a liver transplant which meant returning to the transplant unit at Leeds Children’s Hospital. That was the start of a three months stay in hospital which  included a successful transplant and a 10 week stay to manage issues around a leak from the liver.

“The nurses and ward staff were again amazing. They were always there for Ellie, putting in the extra effort it takes to keep a seven month old infant entertained. Not only did they look after Ellie they were also conscious of us, her parents, and were concerned about us and the stress we were under. When circumstances allowed they would practically force us of the ward to take us away from the stress even if just for one hour while the nurses and play staff would look after and entertain Ellie. “Over the three months the staff became a second family and made the time on the ward bearable and some would become life long friends through her follow up appointments and her involvement with the Leeds Children Transplant Team.

“We must stress that wherever we were the nurses and staff could not do enough for us.

ellie with medals at british transplant games

“Since leaving hospital at 10 months we have been going to Sheffield Children’s Hospital every year and Leeds every three to six months. Sheffield being the nearer hospital and having a children’s Emergency Department became our regular first point if any issues arose we would go there. They would liaise with the liver ward at Leeds and between them discuss treatment for whatever was wrong at the time.

“It’s so lovely that Dr Anna at Sheffield Children’s is always glad to talk with Ellie about her successes when she sees her. Ellie also receives regular support from doctors at Leeds, which has helped her growing up with her condition. She is now 17 and preparing to move into adult services but she has received amazing care so far to send her out into the wide world.

“The way Ellie succeeds in the games and helps others, in particular the younger members of the team, means she has become a real role model to others.”

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