Auntie's 874-mile virtual charity walk to say thank you

A grateful auntie is taking on a virtual 874-mile Lands’ End to John O’Groats virtual walk for charity, to say thank you for the critical care her nephew and niece received within months of each other last year.

In June 2020, Natalie Menzies’ three-year-old nephew Bobby underwent life-saving surgery at Sheffield Children’s following a fall.

Natalie, from Leek in Staffordshire, explains: “He hit his head pretty hard and started being sick so his mum Becky took him to their local hospital.

“Bobby went home but was still being sick and after two days he became very lethargic, so Becky took him back to hospital. After a CT scan, they found he had fractured his skull and had a bleed on the brain.”

An ambulance was called to immediately transfer Bobby to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where a surgical team was ready to operate.

Mum Becky remembers: “His dad and I were with him and the surgeons said they would do everything they could. They were concerned he may have already sustained brain damage. I was terrified, all I wanted was for him to come out safe.”

Natalie adds: “It was the worst phone call I have ever received. I was so upset and have never felt as scared as I did when he was in surgery.”

Bobby’s surgery lasted for two and a half hours. It was successful and he has fortunately not sustained any brain damage. Following the operation, he was moved onto the dedicated neurosciences ward at Sheffield Children’s, Ward 5, where he spent the next five days recovering before going home.

Mum Becky continues: “The care was amazing, everyone was so kind, attentive and very thorough. Sheffield Children’s saved Bobby’s life and we will be forever grateful.”

A few months later and with Bobby on his way to a full recovery, his seven-year-old sister Eva-May then became very unwell.

Mum Becky explains: “She had become thirsty all the time; she was losing weight and wasn’t herself. She was teary, lethargic and was struggling with her concentration.

“She had a blood test at the doctors, which found her blood sugars were very high. We took her straight to Sheffield Children’s, where she was hooked to a drip for rehydration and then her blood monitored throughout the night.”

Eva-May was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes and a complication known as diabetic ketoacidosis. The condition occurs when the body starts to run out of insulin, causing harmful substances called ketones to build up in the body. It can be life-threatening if not spotted and treated quickly.

Eva-May stayed on Ward 3 at Sheffield Children’s Hospital for three nights, while the Diabetes Team monitored her, returned her blood sugars to normal levels and started the process of Eva-May and her family understanding her condition and how to manage it.

Mum Becky continues: “Eva-May has taken to the adjustments afterwards like a duck to water, it’s become second nature to us all now. She recognises if she is low and which foods need counting for carbohydrates, she’s been amazing. The care at Sheffield Children’s was incredible, the nurses in the Diabetes Team were particularly great.”

Natalie adds: “Myself and her grandparents have all had support from the Diabetes Team so they could explain her condition in detail to us, show us how to administer insulin, count her carbs and what to do if she becomes hypoglycaemic.”

The care received by Bobby and Eva-May prompted Natalie to take on a challenge outside of her comfort zone:

“I have been so proud of both Bobby and Eva-May and the resilience they have shown. Bobby was very brave following his surgery and has made a full recovery, while Eva-May has been so positive about living with her condition and has just taken it all in her stride.

“I am eternally grateful for the care Sheffield Children’s has given to my nephew and niece and I signed up to walk 874 miles just to give something back.

“To be honest, I didn’t do much exercise before and was very unfit. However, since starting the walking challenge in the summer, I have come to appreciate the outdoors much more. I’ve walked through sunshine, torrential rain, cold, snow and seen the seasons change, there’s been something about them all I’ve come to love.

“The distance means I have to walk every day to clock up the miles and I have currently completed nearly 600. I have until July to complete it, and I do a lot of it alone, accompanied by playlists, podcasts and audiobooks.”

Natalie has since raised more than £1,100 for The Children’s Hospital Charity, more than her initial fundraising target with five months still left to go.

She adds: “I feel very proud of what I have achieved so far, the money I’ve raised and I hope we can add to the total before the challenge finishes. All the donations I have received have helped me to give something back to Sheffield Children’s, so I would like to say a massive thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has sponsored me.”

To support Natalie’s challenge, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/natalie-menzies