One of our Learn To Swim stars featured in fundraising campaign for Westmead Childrens Hospital!
We love to hear your swim stories, and those which demonstrate courage and determination at a young age are particularly inspirational!
Local girl Matilda Mobbs, is one determined ten year old. Born with Spina Bifida, and despite frequent hospital visits, young Matilda has achieved great results in competitive swimming this year, as well as being chosen as an ambassador for the recently launched Westmead Children’s Hospital National “Curing Homesickness” campaign. You can donate here: Curing Homesickness
Matilda was born with lipomyelomeningocele a form of Spina Bifida causing the L4-L5 vertebrae to not form properly during pregnancy and the nerves in her spine to fall through the gap and tether to Matilda’s back, leaving neurological damage to her legs. Spina Bifida occurs in the first month of pregnancy so there is no way of knowing what causes it, and there is no cure. Matilda’s form of Spina Bifida is undetectable during pregnancy and is not reduced by the folic acid in prenatal vitamins.
Matilda had her first surgery at 7 months old, to detach the nerves from her back muscles and close the gap in her Spina, and a second surgery at 5 years old on her right foot. She sees her specialist team at Westmead Children’s Hospital every six months, with additional scans and tests every 12months, plus regular visits to the orthotics department for the maintenance of her leg braces (AFO/KAFO).
After starting swimming as a 6 month old baby at Eva Bory’s Swim School to help strengthen the leg muscles she has (only quadriceps), swimming and swim therapy became an important part of Matilda’s life. Swimming didn’t put any pressure on her knee and ankle joints due to the support of the water, and Matilda’s orthopaedic surgeon believes she walks well because of the swimming – and that if she didn’t swim, she may have required a walking frame or crutches full time.
Matilda has swum competitively through school since the age of 6, last year joining Nepean Aquatic Centre squads and competing in multi class and state meets for the last 12months. To date, Matilda has won 4 gold, 5 silver & 7 bronze medals at Multi class championships, junior metro championships, metro south west, catholic school championships and PSSA. This year she also received her first silver JX cap.
When asked what she likes best about swimming Matilda replied that she, “likes swimming because I don’t have to wear my leg braces and I don’t feel like I have a disability in the water”. Matildas mother Cassandra adds, “Matilda loves Nepean Aquatic Centre Swim Club, she feels like she is accepted, the coaches and kids are so supportive of her swimming. She swims with the Multiclass squad with other amazing kids just like her, and her coach Jackie Barck has just added her to the discovery squad with some of the clubs amazing able-bodied swimmers – who Matilda is determined to keep up with!”
Hospital visits also impact on a patient’s family, but Matilda’s father Adam is upbeat. “Matilda being the oldest, we didn’t really know what to expect having a baby so her disability is our normal. All her appointments, tests and surgeries are a family affair. Her younger brother Xavier even helps pick the colour of her legs braces, or assists helping with physio”.
Matilda doesn’t really mind the day trips to the hospital as she loves the medical team who have been part of her life from day one, but she hates having tests and staying overnight, as it’s “scary” – which is what the National Curing Homesickness campaign is raising money to help address.
Dad Adam says, “The children’s Hospital at Westmead asked individual departments at the hospital to nominate an ambassador for the campaign – Matilda’s was a unanimous selection, for her amazing achievements and her bubbly, outgoing personality”. Mum Cassandra adds,
“Matilda knows what it’s like to want to go home when you are stuck in hospital. She wanted to help other kids get to come home. The hospital has done so much for our family and our daughter. We were honoured that Matilda was asked to help so we could give back to a place that has given us so much”.
For more information about the National Curing Homesickness campaign or to donate please see the links below:
Instagram: @curinghomesickness Use the hashtag: #CuringHomesickness Facebook: /CuringHomesickness Twitter: @CHomesickness