Paula Ratcliffe is taking part in Team Theo’s Glow Run, a 5km run in aid of The Children’s Hospital Charity which is asking supporters to glow around their local area this year.
Paula, mum to daughters, Emily and Mia, only started running around 12 weeks ago. She said:“They have done so much for our family, so I wanted to do something for them too.”
Paula’s daughter Emily was born at 30 weeks, weighing 2lbs and 10oz in August 2016. She was cared for in her local hospital for the first three months of her life, before heading home for the first time.
After a week at home, Emily was continually sick and was referred to Sheffield Children’s, where she had a feeding tube fitted which bypassed her stomach and was placed in the bowel.
Emily then had further surgery to fit a gastrojejunostomy feeding tube, which helps her live life to the fullest.
Shortly after her first birthday, Emily was diagnosed with cerebral palsy following an MRI scan at Sheffield Children’s after her mum noticed she was leaning to one side and not using her right arm.
Nevertheless, her progress is astounding, said Paula: “Emily has surprised every day; she is a very happy and determined little girl. We were told she may not talk, eat, drink or move but she has defied the odds.
"She is a very bright and caring little girl, she is able to crawl and eat, as well as being a whiz in her wheelchair!”
“Emily also has a very busy social life as well as is being in full time school. Her hobbies are dancing, horse-riding and swimming! We do everything we can to help and give Emily the best life possible.”
Her younger sister Mia was born at 37 weeks in July 2019. Despite it being a routine pregnancy, Mia became very ill within 12 hours and was transferred to Sheffield Children’s for emergency surgery.
Paula remembers: “It came completely out of the blue, there were no signs during pregnancy. I couldn’t be with her as I was still recovering from the caesarean so her dad, John, went with her.
“He was shocked but very reassured to see that the surgeon operating on Mia was Mr Richard Lindley, who had performed all of Emily’s surgeries.”
Mia had developed a severe type of a serious illness called necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), in which tissues in the intestine become inflamed and start to die. This can lead to a perforation, or hole, developing which allows the contents of the intestine to leak into the abdomen.
Left untreated, this can cause a life-threatening infection and Mia was initially given a very slim chance of survival. She was operated on at less than 24 hours old and had most of her large and small bowel removed.
Mia then spent five days on the High Dependency Unit at Sheffield Children’s, before moving onto the Neonatal Surgical Unit and then on to Ward 1 when she was 12 weeks old.
Paula continues: “She’s given us a couple of scares since, having sepsis and requiring more surgery, but she was able to come home for three months in May this year.
"Mia has since been readmitted and is now keeping everyone busy and entertained on Ward 1 again but we’re hopeful she’ll be home in time for Christmas.
“The care has been brilliant; the consultants and surgeons really do listen. They have gone above and beyond for us as a family.
“Mr Lindley and his team have been brilliant throughout - he always makes the effort to call or to come see us on the ward. The Total Parental Nutrition (TPN) nurses have been an amazing source of support too.
“Even with all the changes due to Covid-19, the staff have been second to none, they’re always on hand to reassure me or explain things.
"I will really miss them when we go home, it’s going to be difficult for both Mia and I to say goodbye as they’ve been so kind to us.”
To say thank you, Paula is taking on Theo’s Glow Run, having already raised more than her initial £200 fundraising target for The Children’s Hospital Charity. She is training by running three times a week with a friend.
Rachael Thomas, events fundraising officer at The Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “It’s really moving to hear about Emily and Mia’s care at Sheffield Children’s and I would like to say a huge thank you to Paula for taking on Team Theo’s Virtual Glow Run this Christmas.”
“If you would like to join them in raising money for Sheffield Children’s, you can sign up via our website. You choose the route and the day, registration is free and we will send you a fundraising pack with a hot chocolate sachet! If you raise £50, you will also receive a snowflake medal that you can proudly display on your Christmas tree too!
To sign up, visit https://events.tchc.org.uk/event/virtual-glow-run/home