A life­time of love from hos­pi­tal

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

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

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