Special Care to Carer - Katie's story

Katie was under the care of neonatal staff when she was born at 23 weeks in 1995. She was inspired by her premature beginning to become a nurse herself.

Like many people I have joined in the applause on Thursdays at 8 o’clock to show my appreciation to the NHS, and I have personal reasons for being so grateful. With 2020 being the year to celebrate nurses and midwives for the incredible work they do, I feel privileged to share my personal experience of being born extremely premature and the reason behind where I am today.

I was born at 23 weeks in March 1995, weighing a tiny 1lbs 7oz. Of course I don’t remember anything about it but my mum and dad certainly do! The dedicated team that brought me into this world did an incredible job to keep me alive in those first few hours. I know from my parents, that during the early weeks there were many occasions where it was touch and go as to whether I would survive. I was in the Special Care Baby unit of Hillingdon Hospital from March until September, being kept alive and cared for 24/7 by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses.

Being on oxygen all the time meant I had to be transferred to Hammersmith Hospital, where one of the top eye surgeons specialising in premature babies preformed an operation to save my sight.

Nurses provided care, comfort and support to my mum and dad that I know they appreciated on their extremely difficult journey. They went to a great effort by making a cake to mark my being ‘one hundred days old’, and they did little things that made a huge impact on my parents at such a daunting time.

I was eventually allowed home in September but came complete with tubes and an oxygen cylinder as I was oxygenated for another 3 years.

Having seen how nurses and doctors can really change people’s lives for the better, I am now training to be a nurse. I grew up hearing my mum and dad praise the nurses, and I think that this has stuck with me ever since.

I had my first encounter of looking after someone when I was asked to provide an extra helping hand around the house for an elderly lady. At this stage I hadn’t really considered a career in nursing as I did not have any A-levels and I knew that it was a profession which needed a degree. I really enjoyed providing that support as I really felt I was making a difference to someone’s life and I know they were very grateful.

I saw an advert in a local paper asking for care assistants in a dementia nursing home and I was keen on applying to gain experience of what it is really like to provide care and companionship to those who need it the most. I found that caring for people came naturally to me and I was often encouraged by registered nurses and carers to consider pursuing a nursing career myself. While still working part-time, I successfully completed a one-year access to higher education course before being offered a place to study Adult Nursing at university.

My time at university has been a mixture of highs and lows as I found myself not fully prepared for living away from my family home where all my comforts were. Nevertheless, it has been an experience that has given me special friendships and happy memories. I was thrilled in the second year of my degree to find out I was nominated by one of my peers and academic tutor for a compassionate care award. What meant more to me than winning was reading the rationale behind my nomination. It certainly reminded me of everything I have achieved and overcome right from the very beginning.

And as I have answered the call for third year student nurses to come forward to help and support the NHS during these times, my nursing career has got off to a start even quicker than I thought it would!