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A lifetime of looking after babies – Northwick Park Hospital nurse celebrates 50 years with NHS

Cecilia Lam has accumulated more than 50 years’ service with the NHS and can still be found working at Northwick Park’s Neonatal Unit looking after premature babies.

“I’ve always loved babies so it is the perfect job,” says the mother of four who came to the UK as a teenager in 1972 to pursue a career in nursing.

“It was cold, grey and I couldn’t believe how much tea people drank,” laughs Cecelia who wouldn’t see home again for five years after applying for a job through the British Counsel in Malaysia. She had just completed her O Levels and, like so many young Malaysians, grasped the opportunity of a better life.

“A group of us were picked up at Heathrow and then dropped at various hospitals in and around London. I ended up in Romford feeling terribly homesick but the girls in the nursing accommodation were so welcoming it made things easier.”

“We used to have proper uniforms back then with starched hats, buckled belts and navy blue capes,” recalls Cecelia who joined Northwick Park in 1977 and has seen huge improvements in both the care and survival rates of premature babies.

“When I first started there were relatively few neonatal units so we had to travel as far afield as places like Brighton in an ambulance to pick up babies. I can’t say it was my favourite part of my job as I used to suffer from being travel sick.

“I remember one ambulance driver seeing me and his face dropping at the prospect of ferrying not one but two sick patients.”

A lifetime of looking after babies - Northwick Park Hospital nurse celebrates 50 years with NHS Harrow Online

One of the nicer aspects of the job has been babies she once looked after come back as adults including a pharmacist and doctor who now work at Northwick Park Hospital.

“They don’t remember me but I often remember them,” says the practice development nurse who takes it easier nowadays and, at a youthful 71, works part-time passing her knowledge onto younger colleagues.

Two of her daughters have followed her into medicine and are now consultants although she admits crying when they told her of their decision.

“I don’t think medical staff get the recognition they deserve a lot of the time but I am very proud of them and we try not to talk shop.”

What of her own prospects at a time in life when most people are sampling the delights of daytime TV and afternoon naps?”

“People keep asking me when am I going to retire but I don’t want to yet! I’ve been lucky to find a job which I still enjoy.”

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