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Paediatric nurse Cath Davies talks about her experiences as a young patient and how these have informed her work with children.


My stays in hospital began when I was about 2 years old. Even as a baby my parents kind of always knew that something was wrong with me. I was a very quiet child and could only whisper. I used to struggle to breathe whenever I got upset, but no one really took it seriously. One night I turned blue in the bath and really got worked up to the point I couldn’t breathe. Luckily my parents were able to calm me down, but from that day on they organised to see a specialist who worked at the Heath. Within a few days I had seen Mr Bradshaw who instantly knew there was something seriously wrong. I was admitted and operated on that week on Paediatrics South. My diagnosis was Laryngeal Papillomas, which were small growths that grew inside my airway and I literally had the tiniest of airways to breathe through. Mr Bradshaw told my parents that it was so lucky they’d come to see him as I probably wouldn’t have coped for much longer. I was then admitted maybe every 2-4 weeks for cauterising treatment to get rid of them.

There was only so much they could do initially as the risk of swelling in my throat was so big. I always enjoyed the ice cream I got afterwards though. This carried on for a while but as I got older the spells between each surgery got longer. Luckily the treatment progressed into laser therapy which was much more effective and a lot less painful! Finally when I was about 9 or 10 they had gone completely and I was just back for scopes and check-ups. I literally have no idea how many operations I’ve actually had. It would be so interesting to get my notes so I could count them, but my dad seems to think it’s definitely more like 100.

I wasn’t what you call the perfect patient. I was petrified of the place and knew exactly each time what was coming. They used to have to anaesthetise me in the corridor as I used to get so hysterical and that would set me off having a wheezing episode. My poor parents, the bribery was in full force and I got away with murder! Each time I was operated on they had to sign consent form for an emergency tracheostomy. This would have completely changed my life back then and I’m forever grateful to Mr Bradshaw that this never happened. I remember him being a lovely man but I just wouldn’t speak to him. I also remember my anaesthetist. I always had the same one. His name was Dan Evans. He certainly had his hands full with me. When I started my training I passed him in the corridor. I only recognised his eyes as whenever I saw him he had a mask and hat on. It was a stop and stare moment!

As I got older I spent most of my time on day surgery. I’ve never been officially discharged as I now have some treatment by Mr Williams. My airway is fine but I’ve been left with lots of scaring and a smaller airway, and obviously my voice will never recover. Lots of singers get polyps (maybe one or 2) but the childhood version is very aggressive and can be very dangerous.

I think I’ve always known I wanted to be a nurse and going into paediatrics was all I wanted to do. Any other nursing just didn’t appeal to me. I applied to a few universities, but was so glad when I got accepted into Cardiff. My first placement ever was on the day surgery unit which was very surreal. It’s been in my life since I was 2 and I’ve seen how the place has changed so much. It’s also changed me. I was painfully shy, would never speak to strangers and the thought of talking in public used to make me so nervous. Even more so as a teenager when your painfully aware of the differences between yourself and your peers. Being a nurse I had to get over that, but working with people who understood really helped. I think even now it helps. To most I just sound like I’ve got a cold but to the few that ask, I tell them about my time in hospital.

There are a few patients over the years that have touched me emotionally. It’s usually the kids that are back and forth all the time. But there’s a young girl who started coming to us about a year ago who has made me think more and more about my time in hospital. Her story is pretty much identical to mine. When I first met her mum she was scared. Her daughter had been very unwell and was back and forth.  When I told her that I had had the same condition as a child, she said it made her feel so much better about her daughter’s future. That missing school wasn’t that important in the long term and that she could go on to lead a very normal life. I love looking after this family. I don’t think the little girl is aware that we’ve been through the same thing, but hopefully as she gets older I can help her. She’s also progressed really well and is happy when she comes into hospital now. I always get a smile from her.

I love my job. I’ve lived it; I understand it and want to make every family’s stay a little more bearable. In reality I know we can’t protect every child from illness or accidents but we can try and not make the experience a horrible one.  I’ve met a lot of children along the way and I don’t want them to suffer because they are different, but rather be proud of the journey they have been on. It’s ok not to be like everyone else.





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