‘Heart mums’ Julie Chambers, Maria Chebrika-Shaw, Susan Jackson, and Yvonne Richardson originally connected on a Facebook group for parents of children who have undergone serious surgery and transplants. Each of them has a child who had a heart transplant at the Freeman hospital in Newcastle – one of only two centres in England equipped to perform the complex operation on children.
Julie, from Hull, sadly lost her two-year-old daughter Zoe in 2008, following a heart transplant the previous year. She said: “I was determined to keep Zoe's legacy alive by fundraising and supporting other mums who had been through a similar experience. I set up the Grieving Mothers UK group on Facebook.
“When I heard about the Heart of Steel I thought it was fantastic and we knew we wanted Zoe’s name on there. I posted about it on one of the groups I belong to for heart mums and 50 other mums said they were also having engravings. A group of us decided it would be fantastic to go with our families to see it at the same time. It was very emotional, being the only ‘angel mum,’ but it was great to finally meet the other mums.
Susan and Yvonne, both from Newcastle, travelled to Sheffield together for the gathering.
Susan said: ““It has been nearly 30 years since my son, Andrew, had his heart transplant – but I still find myself getting emotional about it.
“Being part of the group that met in Sheffield has been so important – we share our worries and our feelings and it makes a real difference knowing there are others who understand what we’ve been through.”
Maria, from Chorlton, said: ““Meeting all the other families this weekend was such a moving experience. It was great seeing our names on the Heart of Steel as well, it is lovely knowing that they are there as a permanent tribute to what we have all been through.”