"Sheffield Children’s has saved my life on more than one occasion and I wouldn’t be here without them"

Fourteen-year-old Aoife has been a patient at Sheffield Children's for most of her life, after being born prematurely as one of two surviving identical triplets. Here, she tells us how she's been supported by the hospital and why you should get behind our latest appeal to raise £2m towards the build of a new research and technology centre.

My name is Aoife. I am 14 years old, and I have been a patient at Sheffield Children’s for most of my life. I am getting in touch to tell you about how they have supported me, and – most importantly – to tell you more about how you can support them to build an incredibly exciting new research and technology centre at the Olympic Legacy Park in South Yorkshire.

I was born prematurely as one of two surviving identical triplets. Because of this, I have two health conditions – chronic lung disease (also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which affects my breathing and cerebral palsy which mainly affects my legs and means I can’t walk independently all the time.

When I was younger I was able to walk with my sticks and used my wheelchair for longer distances, but as I grew up, I became stuck in a flexed position that started to make walking quite difficult.

I have fond memories of the playgroup and therapy rooms at Ryegate Children’s Centre when I was younger, and the people there are so friendly. I love the hydrotherapy pool and wish I could go there more often.

Fun Fact! Gait means walking! The Gait Laboratory is a large room with specialist equipment for measuring and analysing your walking. Gait analysis is a specialist service and only available in a few NHS Trusts in the UK. 

I have visited the Gait Lab twice and the first time was in February 2021, so they could measure and analyse my walking to determine what treatment I could have to help with my mobility. They used specialist equipment to look at how I move my legs and feet, and how that impacts my joints when I walk.

Following this, I was offered orthopaedic surgery on my legs.

I was very nervous about the surgery because I didn’t know how I would feel afterwards and was worried about the pain. I had it in October 2022; now I can straighten my legs and I’m currently learning to walk again with the help of special braces and a walker.

Following surgery, I visited the Gait Lab for a second time in May 2023 and they said I’ve been making great progress. They took a video of me walking with my walker as well as lots of measurements. I am really hoping that I continue improving and that walking and transferring from my wheelchair will get easier as more time passes since surgery.

As I am 14 years old, Sheffield Children’s allows me to have more of a say in my care and I’m grateful for that opportunity because it will help with my transition to adult services in a few years.

My respiratory consultant also recommended that I join the Youth Forum, as I have spent a lot of time in the hospital and like to chat! The Youth Forum is a group of current and former patients and sometimes their siblings who come together every month to talk about the issues that matter most to them in relation to Sheffield Children's. They help Sheffield Children’s give the best possible care experience to patients and their families.

I thought it was a good idea for me to join it because it gives those who have been through hospital care a chance to voice their opinions, and I think it’s important to represent wheelchair users.

When we meet, we talk about things that need improving, talk to specialists, visit parts of the hospital and get involved in opportunities and campaigns.

It feels great to meet with other people of different ages who have been through Sheffield Children’s Hospital care too and are understanding of my experiences.

But why am I telling you about all this? It’s because Sheffield Children’s are building a new research and technology centre called the National Centre for Child Health Technology at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park and The Children’s Hospital Charity needs your help to raise £2million towards its build.

This is very exciting because, at this new centre, they will be doing research and creating new technology that will help to solve some of the biggest challenges in children’s healthcare. They will have state-of-the-art facilities and some of Sheffield Children’s clinical care, like the assessments I’ve had at the Gait Lab, will be moving there.

Technology is so important in children’s healthcare. It helps doctors diagnose what’s wrong, determines what treatment can be provided, helps keep lots of specialists up-to-date with everything they need to know about a patient's care, and so much more!

Without the technology they have at the Gait Lab, it would have been much harder to decide on the right treatment for me. It would also have been incredibly difficult to record and monitor any progress with my walking before and after surgery. My care, and my life now, would be very different if technology hadn’t played such a big part in my treatment.

So today, I’m inviting you to make a donation to The Children’s Hospital Charity to help them contribute towards the build of the new technology centre.

Sheffield Children’s has saved my life on more than one occasion, and I wouldn’t be here without them. Lots of children rely on the hospital to make them better and this new technology centre will help them provide the best care possible for children and young people today, and in the future.

Every donation is important and can make a big difference, so anything you can spare will be much appreciated. Visit the donate page here and select 'National Centre for Child Health Technology (NCCHT)' to make sure it goes to the right place. 

Thank you for reading my story and thank you so much for supporting Sheffield Children’s.