HIV nurse specialist ‘helped me rediscover my sense of purpose and self-confidence’

Mary Makarau has been nominated for the Patient’s Choice award for her compassionate, dedicated care

Mary Makarau has been working with people with HIV for the past 20 years Picture: David Gee

‘I was full of dreams before I was diagnosed with HIV,’ says Aaron. ‘Afterwards, all my hopes were in tatters and my family had rejected me. I had nobody.

‘HIV clinical nurse specialist Mary Makarau tried to help me but I refused to see anyone. But with infinite kindness and compassion, she waited at my door, knocked and pleaded with me to give her a chance.

Constant support has transformed people’s lives

‘When I finally opened it, I realised that Mary was a gift. She made me understand my life wasn’t over, that I could lead a healthy, happy and fulfilling life if I took my meds.’

Aaron is one of three patients who have nominated Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust nurse Ms Makarau for the RCNi Patient’s Choice award, praising the support and care she gives people affected by HIV.

Read about the rest of our Patient’s Choice finalists below, or click here to vote

Aaron says Ms Makarau’s support helped him rediscover his sense of purpose and self-confidence.

‘Now I am starting doctoral studies,’ he says. ‘None of this would have been possible without Mary. At the height of my distress, I would frequently contact her at night and not once did my call go unanswered. No words can describe what Mary has done for me.’

‘Mary visited me every day at home when I was struggling with my medication’

A fellow nominator was also finding it difficult to come to terms with his diagnosis and had been rejected by his family.

‘I was struggling to take the antiretroviral drugs, felt isolated and rarely went out,’ he says. ‘Mary visited me every day at home to support me with my medication, comfort me when I was emotional and explain that I could live a fulfilling life to old age.

‘Mary was a gift. She made me understand my life wasn’t over, that I could lead a healthy, happy and fulfilling life if I took my meds’

‘I love her visits and can talk freely with her. She makes me feel like I am the only person she looks after. Thanks to her wonderful care I am enjoying life again. She told me never to allow HIV to control my life. Now I am the one who is controlling the HIV.’

Helping people when they are at their lowest

Letitia had hit rock bottom when she met Ms Makarau. Her ex-husband was diagnosed with HIV then she discovered she’d also been infected.

Her husband lost his job and started drinking and she was evicted by the council. She was physically unwell and emotionally fragile but trying to remain strong for her traumatised young son.

‘I couldn't trust anyone at this dark point,’ she says. ‘Then I was introduced to Mary. I could speak to her about everything. She fought like a lion to have my husband admitted to Mildmay Mission Hospital, a specialist HIV hospital in London.

‘She came with me to court for my housing issue and consoled me when I needed it. With warmth, love and sheer persistence, she repeated the message that my life wasn’t over until I could take control of it, in spite of the injustices I’d suffered.

‘I now have a good, secure job. Looking back, I sometimes wonder how I've come through so much and I’m still in one piece. What I am certain about is it wouldn’t have been possible without Mary.’

Support to live a fulfilling life with HIV

Ms Makarau says she is delighted and humbled to have been nominated by her patients. She became an HIV clinical nurse specialist 20 years ago after supporting a loved one who became infected.

She is delighted with how well her clients are doing. ‘I am so proud of them,’ she says. ‘I love my job and supporting people and their families with their health and social issues and helping them to see that they can live a happy and fulfilling life with their diagnosis.’

Voting for the RCNi Patient’s Choice award opens on 17 August and closes at midnight on 11 September. The winner will be announced at a virtual ceremony later this year

Elaine Cole is RCNi special projects editor

The RCNi Patient’s Choice award is supported by Nursing Standard