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Sheila bows out after 32 years

PUBLISHED: 22:00 03 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:34 03 March 2010

ONE of the first nurses to work in Ipswich Hospital's Special Care Baby Unit has retired.

Thousands of tiny, premature babies have been cuddled and cared for by Sheila Barber in the last 32 years but the time has come to leave the nappies behind.

By JESSICA NICHOLLS, health reporter

Pictures: OWEN HINES

jessica.nicholls@eveningstar.co.uk

ONE of the first nurses to work in Ipswich Hospital's Special Care Baby Unit has retired.

Thousands of tiny, premature babies have been cuddled and cared for by Sheila Barber in the last 32 years but the time has come to leave the nappies behind.

Tears and smiles marked her final day yesterday as her time on the unit has been a real labour of love.

Coincidentally, a former patient of Sheila's happened to visit the ward that day.

Ellie Hopkins was one-year-old on August 29 and spent 92 days in the unit because she had a problem with a valve in her heart.

Her mum, Jo, from Broomstone Road, said she was born weighing just 1lb 12oz but now weighs more than 13lbs.

An emotional Sheila said: "This is what is nice.

"Seeing these babies one year on is all the reward you need."

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Sheila finished her nurse training in 1958 as a general nurse and was working on a geriatric ward in 1969 when she spotted a request for nurses on the new Special Care Baby Unit and never looked back.

She said: "The changes have been immense.

"We are looking after babies that have had a 25 week gestation period and they are surviving.

"When I first came on here and we had a baby of 30 weeks we were scared.

"There was not the expertise or the equipment back then."

One of the hardest times for the nurses is if the babies die.

Sheila, who qualified as a sister in 1979 said: "I have spent a lot of my time of the years dealing with parents in sad situations.

"You have to give them your time and a lot of support."

Sheila has lived in Suffolk all her life and went to Hadleigh Secondary Modern School.

She met her husband, Freddie, when she was 17 and has three children Andrew, 41, Keith 40 and Gillian 38, and six grandchildren.

Although she is looking forward to spending more time with them and tending her garden, she does not want to completely cut the ties with the hospital and is hoping to go back and do pool work for another year.

She said: "I really love the work."

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