Patient view

Our nurse took away my daughter’s fears

Gabrielle Archer says she can never thank paediatric nurse specialist Sarah Hartfree enough for the care she gave.

Gabrielle Archer says she can never thank paediatric nurse specialist Sarah Hartfree enough for the care she gave

My daughter Isabella was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at the age of one. She was unable to walk and in pain constantly.

She had been poked and prodded so many times that it was a struggle for anyone to get close. She couldnt have physiotherapy because the pain would make her scream.

Then she met paediatric rheumatology nurse specialist Sarah Hartfree at Southampton General Hospital. Ms Hartfree wasnt like any other nurse. She came into the room during Isabellas first clinic and took away all of her fear. It wasnt about checking Bellas joints, it was about having fun.

Reassurance, anytime

During those first few months,

...

Gabrielle Archer says she can never thank paediatric nurse specialist Sarah Hartfree enough for the care she gave


Paediatric rheumatology nurse specialist Sarah Hartfree, with patient
Isabella and mum Gabrielle Archer.    Picture: Chris Balcombe 

My daughter Isabella was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at the age of one. She was unable to walk and in pain constantly.

She had been poked and prodded so many times that it was a struggle for anyone to get close. She couldn’t have physiotherapy because the pain would make her scream.

Then she met paediatric rheumatology nurse specialist Sarah Hartfree at Southampton General Hospital. Ms Hartfree wasn’t like any other nurse. She came into the room during Isabella’s first clinic and took away all of her fear. It wasn’t about checking Bella’s joints, it was about having fun.

Reassurance, anytime 

During those first few months, after diagnosis, we saw Ms Hartfree two or three times a week, and as often as we needed reassurance she was there to provide it. She gave us her telephone number and would often return our calls outside of work hours.

‘Sarah wasn't like any other nurse. She came into the room during Isabella's first clinic and took away all of her fear’

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

Ms Hartfree came to my aid again when my son was hospitalised with a sudden life-threatening condition. We were inpatients for 6 weeks, and Ms Hartfree would come to check on Isaac and myself as well as popping in to check Bella’s legs, as I was unable to make appointments. 

During her weekends she organised educational sessions for me to learn about Bella’s medication. Without these sessions I would have little understanding of what I’m putting into my child. She ensures consultants are there to explain and answer questions, as well as making sure the kids are entertained by organising painting or cake decorating.

Tireless efforts 

A diagnosis of juvenile arthritis can be lonely for a parent and child, so Ms Hartfree organises family events and holds them in her spare time. These include Christmas parties, toddler groups, teen peer support groups and summer barbecues.

Then somewhere in between she fundraises for juvenile arthritis causes, be it a 500-mile bike ride (which she entered herself), sponsored walks, gala charity nights or cake sales, to name but a few. She has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of juvenile arthritis.

I don’t know how I would have got through the first few months or the dark days that followed without her. I can never thank her enough.

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