Doncaster woman not expected to live 60 seconds set to celebrate 60th birthday

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Carmel Proctor was not expected to survive 60 seconds when she was born.

But this year, she plans to celebrate her 60th birthday with a gift for the hospital which saved her life.

Carmel, of Cusworth, was born at home in Doncaster on August 8 1960, with myelomeningocele, the most severe type of spina bifida. This occurs when a baby’s spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.

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She said: “I was very poorly indeed, my parents would tell me later that I wasn’t expected to last 60 seconds. I was born at home and my mum’s GP who was at the birth knew of Mr Zachary at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, so I was taken there by ambulance instead of sending me to my local hospital.

Carmel Proctor aged fourCarmel Proctor aged four
Carmel Proctor aged four | Other 3rd Party

“Two days later, I was in the operating theatre. If it had not been for Sheffield Children’s, I would have been what they referred to back then as ‘nourished’, which was a kind of ‘hope and see’ treatment.”

Lee Breakwell, consultant spinal surgeon at Sheffield Children’s Hospital said: “Sadly in that time, most children with severe spina bifida were treated with tender-loving-care but wouldn’t survive long after birth. Surgery wasn’t considered an option.”

She was treated by Robert Zachary, the first full-time surgeon at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, who developed an international reputation for expertise on spina bifida.

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He showed if babies with spina bifida were operated on within hours of birth, survival rates could be improved from under 10 per cent to almost 90 per cent.

Carmel Proctor is due to turn 60 in August.Carmel Proctor is due to turn 60 in August.
Carmel Proctor is due to turn 60 in August. | Other 3rd Party

Medical secretary Carmel spent almost three months in hospital and had check-ups until she reached the age of 16.

She has pledged to raise as much as possible for Sheffield Children’s Hospital. So far, she has organised a raffle and plans cake sales, games and sweepstakes ahead of a special fundraising day on August 9.

Carmel said: “I’ve been saying for at least the last decade that when I get to my 60th birthday I’m going to raise as much as I can, because I wouldn’t be here without them.”