A Southampton children's nurse has received a prestigious national award for helping a family cope with a difficult diagnosis for their daughter.
Sarah Hartfree, a paediatric rheumatology nurse specialist at Southampton Children's Hospital, was named winner of the Patients' Choice category at the Nursing Standard Nurse Awards 2015 in London following a month-long public vote.
She was one of four nurses – out of 100 nominees – shortlisted for the award, which allows members of the public to thank a nurse who has made a real difference to healthcare for them or a member of their family.
Sarah was nominated by Bournemouth mum Gabrielle Archer, whose daughter Isabella was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at the age of one.
“Isabella was petrified, unable to walk and in constant pain,” she explained. “She had been poked and prodded so many times it was a struggle for anyone to get close and she could not have physio as she would just scream at her therapist. Then we met Sarah.
“We saw her two or three times a week in those first months of the diagnosis and she was there to reassure us as often as we needed it – even if it meant returning our calls outside working hours.
“Any signs of new disease or struggle with control of disease, she would have Bella booked in to the next clinic and was always there to meet her with a huge smile.”
In addition to her clinical duties, Sarah has led the development of weekend education sessions to help parents understand the strong medications their children have to take and ensures consultants are always on hand to answer questions.
She has also introduced family events such as Christmas parties, barbecues, toddler groups and peer support groups for teenagers, as well as fundraising for new medical equipment through Southampton Hospital Charity.
Gabrielle added: “We are almost three years in to Isabella's journey and, without Sarah, I don't know how I would have got through those first few months or the dark days that have followed in between – I could never thank her enough.”
Sarah, who has been nursing for 13 years and has specialised in rheumatology for almost five, said: “I was gobsmacked to be nominated in the first place as there are so many great nurses out there but, at the same time, I felt extremely honoured.
“To then go on and win the award following a public vote is a truly amazing feeling and I hope it helps to put the spotlight on paediatric rheumatology and highlight just how important it is for families to be supported in a variety of ways.”
She added: “I met the Archer family quite early into this role and they were in need – I have just been able to be there at the right time for them. Mummy is the real superhero here and I would like to thank her for taking the time and effort to make such a wonderful gesture of thanks to me.”
Judy Gillow, director of nursing at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Sarah is a highly-skilled nurse who has always shown exceptional dedication to her patients and families and she is thoroughly deserving of this distinguished national award.
“Her enthusiasm is infectious and her commitment extends way beyond clinical work, which is clear from her outstanding fundraising exploits and event planning. We are all delighted for her.”
Posted on Friday 8 May 2015