A lifetime of love from hospital
LAST month 18-year-old Julie Charlton graduated. Not from school, but from the Sydney Children’s Hospital where she has been a patient all her life.
Born with spina bifida, she calls the team at the hospital her second family, as they have been beside her on her complex health journey. Now an adult, she’s saying goodbye.
“They have a graduation ceremony when you finish, it was so bitter sweet. Sweet in that I know I am moving on with my life and can take more control over my health, but bitter in that I have had such an amazing support network it’s hard to leave,” she said.
Ms Charlton has been attending the hospital every six months since childhood. She has had multiple surgeries and a team of various doctors and nurses to treat her disability. Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that occurs in utero. The growing embryo does not develop normally and the spinal cord and nerves are exposed on the surface of the back where they are easily damaged. Parts of the body below the level of the exposed area do not function properly.
“I’ve got a neurologist, a urologist, paediatric surgeon, orthopaedic doctor and Dr Charles Scarf, the overall paediatrician, he is very close to my heart,” she said.
The team has not only helped her physical condition, including spinal surgery, three brain surgeries and bladder surgery, they have helped her accept and be confident with her disability.
“When I was little … people would stare at me in the shopping centre and children would look sad when I w wheeled past. That really hurt me as a kid. I want to change that perception. It’s not scary, smile at us, we are not awful, scary monsters. The hospital h has helped me display my disability confidently. I felt accepted and supported.”
So much so, Ms Charlton is aiming for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020. She is already an Australian world champion in shot put, discus and javelin.
THE HOSPITAL’S ANNUAL APPEAL IS UNDER WAY TO HELP CHILDREN LIKE JULIE. GO TO WWW.GOLDAPPEAL.ORG. AU OR CALL 1800 244 537 TO DONATE
Julie Charlton at her Dural home was born with spina bifida.
Picture: Jeremy Piper