Amputee Valérie leads the way to help hospital children

Remembering her own 'devastating' experiences in hospital, she raises funds to improve lives of those on long treatments

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Having been keen on sport when younger, Valérie Hirschfield found it unbearable when she was stuck in hospital after having to have a leg amputated – and then realised it must be worse for children who are also facing long treatments.

So she set up an association to help fund medical and recreational equipment for youngsters in hospital and has completed a 62km charity walk and organised a charity concert to raise money to raise the first cash.

Valérie, 53, lost her left leg to a staphylococcus infection in 2005 and said: “Although I was born in Toulon, I grew up in South Africa and used to play a lot of sports there from a young age. So having the infection and being confined to a bed for 13 months was devastating.

“I was so tired of seeing doctors, going for hospital visits and not being as active anymore, so I can emphasise with the children.”

The active mother-of-three organised the charity walk in January and then, last month, a charity concert at La Seyne-sur-Mer in the Var, where she lives. She raised €2,600 for children in Sainte Musse hospital paediatrics unit in Toulon.

Valérie said: “I want to improve their time in hospital and help them get better by raising money for them. We asked the hospital ward to list things the children needed and we spend the money in the best way possible. All funds go to benefit the children.”

For the January walk she walked 62km from La Seyne-sur-Mer to Marseille, walking about 17km on her prosthetic leg and the rest on crutches. It took two days. “I walked from La Seyne to La Ciotat, then rested there for the night and continued my journey to the harbour in Marseille.

“At first, I wanted to do the entire thing by myself, but friends and family grew worried and insisted on accompanying me for safety. I just thought ‘what if they slow me down?’ but now I am glad we did it together.”

Friends and supporters joined her along the coastal route by the Mediterranean while Nice disability transport group Ulysse offered transport for people of reduced mobility, covered travel costs and provided two vans full of supplies donated by the local rugby club and supermarkets.

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Valérie said: “Receiving such generous donations allowed us to carry out the walk with little costs, meaning we could gather as much money as possible for charity.”

She founded an association, Valerie Jusqu’au Bout, Plus que Jamais Debout, for donations and donors can get a tax credit if they pay tax in France.

One of the sports she enjoyed while recuperating from her operation was paddle-boarding and, using a borrowed prosthetic leg from French developers Protéor and BTC Orthopédie, she was able to complete a 220km event in the Netherlands.