A brave woman from Derbyshire underwent 18 life-changing operations
A Derbyshire woman has explained how her own health issues and those of her cousin inspired her to start her own charity to help terminally ill children and adults. Maria Hanson MBE set up the charity after speaking to a nurse who helped her and her cousin during their treatment and wanted to help make a difference in the Derbyshire area.
Maria Hanson MBE, 67, has struggled with various health issues which have had a big impact on the way she lives her life. After being fitted with ostomy bags for bowel issues and using a walker to aid her mobility, Maria set out to help as many people facing health issues as possible.
She said: “I had 18 surgeries before I got into position. I have persistent problems that I go to the hospital with. I have ostomy bags and neurological and back issues, I have mobility issues and have to walk with poles.
Read more: All the latest health stories across Derby and Derbyshire
“I recently had a nasty infection that attacked my mouth and moved up behind my eye so I had to pull all my teeth out and I lost sight in my left eye at the moment. It’s a range of things I have to deal with in the day.
Maria started me&dee, a charity based in Melbourne, after her cousin Delia suffered from cancer and died peacefully in 2005. After Maria was hospitalized and treated by a nurse who knew them all two, she decided to start her own charity.
Over 15 years later, the charity is still operational and now supports children and adults with a wide variety of terminal and life-limiting illnesses. These people are then supported by the charity to create memories that they might not have had the opportunity to make otherwise.
Maria added: ‘I started it almost 16 years ago, I had to have a lot of surgeries and I looked for charities to help me and they couldn’t help me, mostly because I couldn’t tick a box. me&dee is unique to our knowledge in all of England in that we support both adults and children, so it can be the child or the parent who comes to us.
“It’s for any life-threatening, shortening or terminal condition, and we’re creating memories for families facing a short and uncertain future. We operate with minimal staff and overhead, we had over 200 applicants last year.
“Each applicant is treated personally and because we operate this way, we don’t get grants. Yesterday we had a tea party for 16 young children in poor health, so there was a little girl who had two liver transplants, this boy from Derby who had meningitis and 84 operations when he only had seven years.
“We had a little girl with a brain tumor and a little girl with lung cancer and a boy with end-stage heart disease. We welcome teenagers, young children or young women with breast cancer who want to come with their children.
Recently, me&dee was supported by Callum Worker, the father of a young girl who was supported by the charity after suffering organ failure and a heart attack. He has created his own fundraising team, “Miles for Smiles”, which completes a number of walking challenges to raise as much money as possible.
“To do the challenge on Sunday will be a huge challenge for me because I will do it with a rollator like Captain Tom did. I will go the extra mile and I have kids joining me,” Maria added.
“The Miles for Smiles team will also join me and many members of the public in showing their support. From then until the end of August, we hope that hundreds of people, children, clubs, companies, groups and schools will participate.
“We have sponsor sheets and stickers for this and are only asking £1 for them to go the extra mile. As a small charity, we still support around 200 families a year, personally and in response to need, creating memories for them together in many ways, primarily at our lodge at Sherwood Hideaway and other ways when not is not possible.
To participate or ask how to support me&dee, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01332 297011.