Orthopaedic surgeons at Southampton Children’s Hospital are using a new type of wheelchair that can get patients with cerebral palsy home five weeks earlier after complex bone surgery.
The Chunc Spica can be used by patients aged from 18 months to 18 years of any shape and who are often in hip casts and leg extensions to help their bones and tendons heal – something not possible with conventional wheelchairs.
As a result, patients can continue to recover at home, access their carers and therapists sooner and, in some cases, return to school and other activities.
Many children born with cerebral palsy, a brain disorder which causes the muscles to tighten and pull the hip joint out of place or lead to dislocation, need hip surgery to allow them to stand and walk or, if permanently in a wheelchair, to move freely and sit in comfort.
The £5,300 chair was purchased by Southampton Children’s Hospital Charity – part of Southampton Hospital Charity – through the fundraising efforts of 12-year-old Natalia Hillman-Bermejo, a cerebral palsy patient who has undergone multiple arm and leg operations at Southampton Children’s Hospital as a result of the condition but regularly competes in athletics events.
In July, she became national champion in an adapted sailing event – winning the 303 Hansa Class National Sailing Championships – just two weeks after surgery and, last year, completed her first mini-triathlon.
“We’re so grateful for the exceptional care and treatment our daughter has received from the children’s orthopaedic team over the years,” said her father Alan. “Although she has been in and out of hospital all her life, Natalia has never allowed her condition to hold her back and has a natural ambition to succeed.
“We’re extremely proud of Natalia’s fundraising efforts and are absolutely delighted to have funded the Chunc Spica chair – we know from experience how much of a difference this will make to children who just want to go home to their families as soon as possible after surgery.”
He added: “We’d like to give a special mention to the Outside Yacht Club, who donated their 2016 fees towards Natalia’s fundraising appeal and helped make this donation possible.”
Caroline Edwards, clinical lead for children’s orthopaedics, said: “Having this chair means patients can go home at after one to two weeks rather than six, which was often the case.
“For many children this means they can return to school and access their carers, therapists and friends much earlier than was possible before, but also that their parents can go back to work sooner.”
She added: “Natalia is an amazing young lady who we have cared for all her life and who works tirelessly with her family to give something back and support children’s orthopaedics. We are extremely grateful to her and her family.”