Childhood cancer survivor reunited with 'life-changing' nurse after 30 years

Childhood cancer survivor reunited with 'life-changing' nurse after 30 years

It's an unfortunate fact that nurses don't always get the respect that they deserve, and that the crucial importance of their job is often overlooked. It's often doctors who get all the credit, and this is even truer in hospices, where nurses are engaged in palliative care and are simply trying to ensure that patients in their care are as comfortable as possible before the end.

When you're sick, or maimed and in great pain, a good nurse is someone you might well remember for the rest of your life. Liz Brown, a mother-of-three from Yorkshire, England, certainly did, and this month she finally had the chance to say "thank you" to a very special person in her life after more than 30 years.

Liz was diagnosed with malignant osteoblastoma, (an extremely uncommon type of bone tumour), when she was just 14-years-old. She learned that she was seriously unwell after the bone tumour left her paralysed from the waist down on the very day of her 14th birthday.

She was rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. The year was 1989. Liz wasn't expected to live to see 1990. However, there was a ray of hope. A nurse by the name of Debbie Bye managed to brighten up the days Liz expected to be her last in the cancer ward. Her kindly manner and high standard of care kept Liz away from utter despair for four months. She even inspired Liz to work with children, and now she works with kids who have autism and hearing impairments.

Despite her grim prognosis, Liz managed to pull through and survive. But all through her life, she never forgot the woman who had cared for her. The two lost contact with each other back in 1989, but Liz was determined to find Debbie, come what may, and give her her heartfelt thanks. To that end, she took to Twitter, and appealed to her followers for help, writing: "By the power of Grayskull (& Twitter) I’m hoping to find my nurse from my teenage cancer experience. Her name was Debbie, I was on ward A5 in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge in 1989. Pls ReTweet I’d love to thank her. [sic]"

Remarkably, the power of social media managed to prevail, and Liz's followers were able to find Debbie Bye, who now works part-time at a school. Amazingly, she even remembered Liz after more than three decades, stating: "To be there when Lizzy was given her prognosis was something I will never forget. She was a teenager in denial and over the years I have often wondered what happened to her and came to the only conclusion I could do and thought she had passed away. I am blown away."

Liz stated: "Now I’m 43 with three children and there’s not a wheelchair in sight. [Debbie]  might have thought she was doing her job but it went above and beyond that. I remember watching Debbie work and being so inspired by the way that she did things. She showed me that children are children no matter what is wrong with them and she treated us all the same."

Liz has announced that she plans to meet up with Debbie in person in the near future, and I for one am hopeful that they become friends. What a heartwarming story ... is someone chopping onions? My eyes have started watering.