Standout nurse advised me to put my anxieties aside to help my daughter

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Standout nurse advised me to put my anxieties aside to help my daughter

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Hayley Goleniowska describes how sedation of her daughter for a blood test was avoided thanks to advice from learning disability nurse Helen Laverty


Helen Laverty with Natty.
Photo: Oxford Mail

Helen Laverty is the epitome of excellent nursing, possessing that rare and magical combination of warmth, integrity, experience and professionalism – mixed with a sprinkle of fairy dust. I can name many nurses who have helped our family immeasurably over the years, but Helen stands out.

I am a parent of a little girl with Down's syndrome, Natty. I wrote to Helen as someone I trust when we were facing increasing trauma and needle phobia during Natty’s routine blood tests.

Our local teams had tried everything, including play therapy, iPads, puppets, books, stickers and nitrous oxide. Helen took the time to help us remotely and listened to my worries. She thought outside the box and could immediately tell it was me that was at the root of the problem. She advised me to try removing myself and my anxiety from the equation.

We asked my daughter’s favourite babysitter to come instead. An easygoing person with a large smile, a warm hug and no emotional investment in that blood test was just what Natty needed.

Together we're better

Helen advised that I should be ‘called away’ at the last moment and then turn up minutes later when the bloods were taken, with a big box of chocolates and a fluffy unicorn. We had thought sedation was the only answer, but this turned out to be the solution.

A professional lead for learning disability at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Helen confidently draws together the voices of nurses, parents, extended families and patients, because she knows that ‘together we are better and our voices louder’.

By helping to organise the Positive Choices conference on learning disability practice each year, she also inspires learning disability nursing students to follow in her footsteps.

Helen is an unfaltering advocate for those with a learning disability, and with over 30 years' experience she instinctively knows how to handle most situations. She works tirelessly to ensure that all patients are given equal access to quality healthcare and treated with dignity and respect.