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Caring Katie's nursing dream inspired by premature son's fight for life


A community healthcare assistant has battled against personal loss and her premature son’s fight for life to become a student nurse.

Katie Garner, 35, works out of Prestatyn Clinic on Kings Avenue and has been a healthcare assistant for six years but in September will proudly don the uniform as a second-year student nurse.

It’s been a long road, overcoming the traumatic premature birth of her son Kayden, now 15, and doubts about whether she made the right decision to enter healthcare.

However, a chance meeting at a school play and unwavering support from her nursing colleagues will see her become the first member of her family to enter university in March next year, sponsored by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

She said: “Kayden should be have been dead, he died, but he’s still here. I thought I could give something back and do the job myself when the time was right for him. I eventually applied to go on the bank as a healthcare assistant at Glan Clwyd Hospital, had an interview and got the job.

“Now, six years later, I’ll be the first person in my whole family to go to university. I’ve got about 50 cousins and I will be the first one. This really means a lot.”

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Her journey started, perhaps subconsciously, when her son was born 13 weeks prematurely in 2007.

Despite the odds being stacked against him, Kayden fought on and after 131 days in Glan Clwyd’s special care baby unit Katie and husband Martin got to take Kayden home - albeit with oxygen tanks for the infant’s chronic lung disease.

It was while nursing and caring for her little fighter Katie started thinking about a career looking after others.

“I was his carer for so many years,” she said. “One day I thought ‘I’m going to apply to go on the bank’ to be a healthcare assistant, because I love it. It was that experience of doing all the care.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing and she struggled to settle but a chance conversation at her son’s school harvest festival concert changed her career course.

Katie, originally from Prestatyn but now living with her husband and two children in Rhyl, explained: “I was talking about the job to another parent and Kelly Clewett, now a district nurse team manager in Denbigh, heard me talking.

Katie is congratulated by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board's executive director of nursing, Angela Wood

“She said ‘Katie, do you fancy coming to work in the district?’ I didn’t know what she meant. I’d never heard of it.

“I didn’t even know the district existed because I’ve never needed it and my family never needed it. This was all new to me.”

She soon realised she needed her NVQs to work in the district team and was given nine months to get her Level 3 qualification. She completed it in six months.

Two years on Katie has finished her Level 4 NVQ, which is the practical equivalent of her first year in nursing and starts her second year proper in March.

Her story comes as the nation celebrates Nursing Support Workers’ Day. The bedrock of hospitals and community teams across the nation, they work with everyone from children to adults, in all aspects of physical and mental health.

The term “nursing support worker” encompasses hundreds of different job titles and roles, including health care assistants (HCAs), health care support workers (HCSWs), assistant practitioners (AP) and trainee nursing associates (TNA).

As well as the variety and complexity of work she encounters in the community, Katie loves the relationships built up with her patients.

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In addition, the comfort she can provide to families, especially those of people receiving palliative care, is important to her.

She said: “I see my job as a privilege - it’s rewarding. To help someone who wishes to die at home and to be able to help with that is an honour, because we’ve made their last wish come true.”

Katie becomes emotional as she reveals why supporting palliative patients means so much to her.

“I treat everyone like I would treat my grandparents,” she said. “I lost both of my grandparents. My grandma died four, five years ago in ITU.

“She was dead proud I was a healthcare. She told every nurse, every day that I worked in the hospital. She was so proud.

“I never in a million years dreamed I would be a nurse. I never thought I would be good enough.”

Community Matron for Denbighshire, Lisa Orhan, has supported and encouraged Katie through her time within the district.

She said: “Katie will make a fantastic nurse. I have had many goals in my nursing career and she certainly has achieved in every way. I just kept telling her ‘follow your dreams and never give up’.”

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