A paediatric nurse has been nominated for a prestigious award for helping a family cope with a difficult diagnosis for their one-year-old daughter.

Sarah Hartfree has been put forward for the Yakult Patient's Choice category of the Nurse Awards by Bournemouth mum Gabrielle Archer. Gabrielle says her nurse got them through their darkest days.

‘My daughter Isabella was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis aged just one,’ says Gabrielle. ‘She was petrified, unable to walk and in constant pain. She had been poked and prodded so many times it was a struggle for anyone to get close. She could not have physio as she would just scream at her therapist. Then we met Sarah.'

Sarah is one of four nurses, out of 100 nominations, to be shortlisted for the award, run by Nursing Standard. It allows members of the public to thank a nurse who has made a real difference to their or a loved one's care. After a public vote, the winner will be announced at a ceremony at The Savoy in London on May 1.

Gabrielle says Sarah, who works at Southampton Children’s Hospital, took away all Isabella’s fear from the first day by making examinations seem to be about having fun rather than about checking joints.

‘We saw Sarah two or three times a week in those first months of the diagnosis and she was there to reassure us as often as we needed it – even if it meant returning our calls outside working hours.

‘Any signs of new disease or struggle with control of disease, she would have Bella booked in to the next clinic and was always there to meet her with a huge smile.’

Sarah came to the family’s aid again when their son Isaac was suddenly admitted to hospital with a sudden life threatening condition. ‘We were inpatients for six weeks and Sarah would come and check on Isaac and me, as well as popping in to examine Bella’s legs as I was unable to make appointments.’

Gabrielle has found the education sessions organised by Sarah at the weekend invaluable in helping her understand the strong medications that her daughter has to take.

Family events

Sarah ensures the consultants are there to explain and to answer questions, as well as making sure the children are entertained by organising painting or cake decorating.

She also holds family events including Christmas parties, toddler groups, teenagers’ peer support groups and barbecues.

‘Having arthritis can be lonely for the child and parent. She has always ensured parents and children are able to offer support to each other at events like these. We went to toddler groups that Sarah gave up her Sunday to hold. The Frozen-themed Christmas party was so magical that Bella was convinced she had been to Disneyland.’

Somehow, Sarah also finds time to raise money and awareness for junior arthritis – including taking on a 500-mile charity bike ride.

‘We are almost three years in to Isabella's journey, and without Sarah I don't know how I would have got through those first few months or the dark days that have followed in between,’ says Gabrielle. ‘I could never thank her enough.’

Sarah is ‘gobsmacked but feels very honoured’ to be nominated. ‘But I don’t think I am worthy of it, ‘ she says. ‘There are so many amazing nurses out there.’

She has been nursing for 13 years, always paediatrics but specializing in rheumotology for four and a half years.

‘I met the Archers quite early into this role. I am lucky and have got very healthy kids and this family looked like they were in need. I have just been able to be there at the right time. That mummy is the superhero here.’

Judy Gillow, director of nursing at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Sarah is a highly-skilled nurse who has always shown exceptional dedication to her patients and families and she is thoroughly deserving of such a wonderful nomination.

‘Her enthusiasm is infectious and her commitment extends way beyond clinical work, which is clear from her outstanding fundraising exploits and event planning, and we are all delighted to see her in the running for this prestigious national award.’

Voting is open from April 1 to 29. Vote online, by text or telephone.

Sarah HartfreeTo vote for Sarah

Call 0845 6530195* and select B

Text NURSE followed by a space and the letter B to 81025 **

Vote online at www.nurseawards.co.uk/740

*Call costs vary according to the caller’s network
** Texts are charged at normal network rates

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