Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Thank You for Rebuilding My Little Girl; NHS CHAMPIONS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Thank You for Rebuilding My Little Girl; NHS CHAMPIONS

Article excerpt




SPECIALITY Prosthetist manager at King's College Hospital Rehabilitation Centre

THE day that Hannah Olateju got meningitis is etched in her mother Rebecca's mind. "I won't ever forget it. It was the last day of February 2002. She was two years old.

"That evening she kept vomiting, her temperature was really high.

We rushed her to Bromley A&E and she was transferred to Farnborough for overnight observation. I spent the night with her and we thought she was going to be okay.

"The next morning I noticed a circular rash on her stomach. I told the doctors, and in the space of half an hour Hannah was dying.

Blisters had suddenly appeared all over her little body. She had meningitis septicaemia, and it was rapidly poisoning her bloodstream.

"I couldn't believe what was happening. It was like an awful dream, watching my baby as a crash team worked on her and praying that she would survive."

Thankfully, she lived, but the doctors had to amputate both her legs through the knee and her arms below the elbow, so that the septicaemia would not spread to her brain. She spent three weeks in the intensive-care unit at Guy's, hooked up to machines that were keeping her alive.

"It was just devastating," Rebecca says. "It was an enormous relief that she pulled through, but I wondered how she was going to cope without arms and legs. We take our limbs for granted but they are just so fundamental to our daily lives."

That was when she was referred to Alan Tanner and his team of prosthetists at King's College Hospital. Their task was to give little Hannah a set of artificial limbs and teach her to use them.

"From day one, the support that I've had from Alan Tanner and the therapists at the rehabilitation centre has been invaluable," Rebecca says. "The service really is a godsend. Alan listens to my fears and he calms me down when I feel anxious about Hannah. After a visit I feel de-stressed not depressed. I couldn't manage without him and his team.

"I can call the centre night and day, and I know Alan will get back to me straight away. Any problems with Hannah's prostheses are sorted out immediately. He will spend time with her, and make sure that she is comfortable using her limbs.

"Fortunately, I have been blessed with a happy, confident and independent-child. She is keen to do everything herself, and she's pretty resilient. If she doesn't succeed, she'll try again.

"She wears prosthetic lower limbs with articulated knees and energy storing feet, and has a battery-operated powered hand. It can be exhausting for a five-year-old, but she's a fighter.

"Only recently she started mainstream school. She loves writing, and her handwriting is among the best in the class. …

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