This Sheffield surgeon has spent 40 years serving the children of the city
For Ewen Mackinnon, Sheffield Children’s Hospital feels like a home from home.
For 30 years, the general surgeon walked the corridors every single day, meeting families at some of the most difficult moments of their lives, and children who needed his help. He brought comfort and kindness, and his name is one that many will never forget.
“I don’t have a lot of reason to visit anymore, of course,” says the 77-year-old, who retired in 2007.
“But on the occasions I do, I’m amazed by how much it has changed. I visited the new wing just before it opened and it’s incredible. I remember when there were just three operating theatres at that hospital, and now there are eight. I wouldn't be able to find my way around these days, it’s so different. And yet, in spite of the changes, I still feel a connection, a feeling of coming home, I don't imagine that will ever change.”
Ewen joined Sheffield Children's Hospital in 1978. Both he and his wife, who worked as a nurse specialist, were on the board of what is now The Children's Hospital Charity during its infancy, helping to make it what it is today. As we speak, Ewen is getting ready for a charity event he’s hosting this month; an annual golf day at Sickleholme club in Hope Valley which he has held for the past 25 consecutive years. A lot of time, planning, and preparation goes into the event, with everything from the day’s logistics to sponsorship to organise. Ewen also personally creates a 12-page programme each year along with signage and score cards designed especially for the event.
“They’re laminated too of course, as you never know what the weather will do,” he laughs.
In the past 25 years, the annual event has raised over £100,000 for the charity that Ewen admits feels a little like his own.
“When my wife and I moved to Sheffield, there was no very active charitable group working in the hospital as there is today. Having been involved for so many years, including the work the team and I did on it way back at the beginning, I do feel a sense of pride and ownership that keeps me working hard and wanting to make the event bigger and better each year.”
This summer, The Children's Hospital Charity decided to honour Ewen's commitment and hard work, presenting him with a special lifetime achievement award.
“It's very humbling, of course,” Ewen reveals with a small shake of his head.
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“The hospital and the charity are both such a big part of my life. I’ve had such a happy career and life there.”
Rachael Thomas, the charity’s events fundraising officer, adds: “Ewen’s commitment to making Sheffield Children’s Hospital the best it can possibly be over the past 40 years has been truly remarkable. Beginning with his work as a surgeon at the hospital, he has saved and changed the lives of countless children.
“His hard work and dedication has continued unabated into retirement, and his dedication to charity work has helped transform the hospital he loves so much for future generations of young patients.”
One such patient who says she will never forget Ewen’s kindness is Natalie Hughes, who first met the surgeon when she was just one week old.
She said: “For the first 16 years of my life, Mr Mackinnon treated me for congenital abnormalities of the renal tract, and absolutely nothing was too much trouble. I’m sure he must have been an incredibly busy man but this never prevented him from taking as long as necessary to explain everything, every option, giving his reasons for preferring one over another, drawing diagrams to help us understand what the next operation was to achieve, and ensuring we were completely at ease.
“This kindness even extended to giving us his home telephone number, so that we could contact him in an emergency. How many consultants can you imagine doing that? He is also, of course, an exceptionally talented surgeon, and thanks to him I’ve been able to live a normal life.
“Words can’t ever hope to express how much Mr MacKinnon means to me and my family, or how grateful we are and always will be for his dedication and commitment to my health. I honestly believe that there isn’t another surgeon in the world who could have given me a better experience.
“I know he’s an extremely modest and humble man, but I feel strongly that his name should be shouted from the rooftops. Multiply my story by many hundreds and you have an idea of how many lives he’s touched. I will be forever grateful and forever indebted.”
Natalie’s mum, Christine, added: “I first met Ewen Mackinnon in 1979, when my daughter was just a few days old. During the following 16 years, this truly amazing man skilfully performed more than 24 life changing operations on Natalie, allowing her to lead a normal life and achieve so much.
“The care that Mr Mackinnon gave to both Natalie and my son Adam, was second to none. He was totally dedicated to his job and was held in high esteem amongst the hundreds of parents who entrusted the care of their loved ones to him. He was so great with all of the children; I always remember him doing ‘round and round the garden’ with Natalie.
“I can never thank this incredible man enough for what he has done for me and my family, for the thousands of children he has helped over the years, and for his continued support of Sheffield Children’s Hospital, which we hold so close to our hearts.”