Tributes to beloved Sheffield Children's Hospital cancer pioneer Mary Gerrard, after tragic Covid death

Family, former patients, and ex-colleagues have paid tribute to a top cancer doctor who saved many children’s lives at Sheffield Children's Hospital.

Friday, 25th March 2022, 5:06 pm
Updated Friday, 25th March 2022, 5:06 pm

Retired consultant Mary Gerrard, from Broomhill, died suddenly and unexpectedly, after contracting coronavirus, at home on March 7, aged 70.

She hit the nation's television screens in the late 80s when she was one of the medics who appeared in the BBC documentary series ‘Inside the Hospital’.

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Tributes have been paid to former Sheffield Children's Hospital consultant oncologist Mary Gerrard, from former colleages, patients, and family

Loved ones paid tribute to Mary at a packed funeral at Aston Hall today, with messages read out from patients whose lives had been saved after they had been treated for childhood cancer, and also from bereaved parents whose children she had treated.

Mary was the first specialist children’s cancer doctor at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. She joined as a single specialist in the 1980s and was responsible for establishing and developing the Oncology Department, which is now one of 22 UK Principal Treatment Centres for children with cancer.

Neuroblastoma and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma expert

She was a lead investigator for international trials in neuroblastoma and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma until her retirement in 2010.

Tributes have been paid to former Sheffield Children's Hospital consultant oncologist Mary Gerrard, from former colleages, patients, and family. PIcture shows Mary on one of the wards in 2002. Picture: Cancer Research UK

A tribute from Sheffield Children’s Hospital trust said: “Many of the current haematology and oncology team were trained by Mary and worked with her - valuing her knowledge, advice and support.

“Colleagues, patients, and their families alike remember Mary as "a formidable patient advocate," "an influential holistic paediatrician," and "a kind and supportive colleague and friend."

Choking back tears to speak at her funeral, her sister revealed Mary was one of nine brothers and sisters.

She said she was grateful that despite the sudden worsening of her Covid symptoms, after a positive test a few days earlier, a close friend had responded to Mary’s call and was with her when she died, knowing an ambulance was on the way.

She said Mary had always wanted to be a doctor, graduating in 1977 and taking her first post at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

She took a job as a consultant at Sheffield in 1988, working there for 22 years until her retirement in 2010.

Her nephew revealed there had been tributes from over 1,000 people.

He read some of those the family had received.

One former colleague, an intensive care nurse in the 1980, described Mary as a compassionate and kind consultant who listened to her nurses, which they said was unusual at the time

A former patient added: “She was my oncologist when I had leukaemia, aged three. I’m now 33, a doctor myself and have a baby on the way. She helped save my life. A wonderful woman. I’ll be forever grateful to her.

Another added: “You saved my life in 1995 at the age of 15. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you

Another said: "She saved my life in 1998 on ward 03. I had multiple cancers at three years old. I’m now a nurse on the adult ward.”

Another added: “She was my son’s consultant in 1998 when he was nine months old with an aggressive brain tumour. She was there whenever we needed her and always so nice. Sadly, my son didn’t make it, but she was there every step of the way. She bought him a beany sheep at Christmas. She was the best."

Mary was buried at the South Yorkshire Woodland Burial Ground.