Terminally ill nurse continues to care for girl, 12


Joanna O'Toole and patient, Amelie ChenImage copyright

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Joanna O’Toole has continued to look after 12-year-old Amelie Chen, despite her diagnosis

A terminally ill nurse has continued to care for a severely ill child despite being diagnosed with cancer herself.

Joanna O’Toole, from Manchester, has looked after 12-year-old Amelie Chen, who has a rare debilitating syndrome, for the last four years.

But she was forced to retire after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and given until last Christmas to live.

However, she has continued to volunteer at the city’s children’s hospital, and has won an award for her “compassion”.

Mrs O’Toole was recognised in the patient’s choice category of the RCNi Nurse Awards.

Amelie’s mother, Lesley, of Stretford, described respiratory specialist Mrs O’Toole as “wonderful and courageous”.

‘Made me tearful’

However, she said the family was left devastated when they learned Amelie and Mrs O’Toole’s time together would be limited.

“I don’t know how we will manage without her. It will feel empty without Jo in all our lives,” she said.

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Amelie’s family have described nurse Joanna O’Toole as “wonderful and courageous”

But Mrs O’Toole insisted she had only done her job.

“I care for children and their families as I would care for my own,” she said.

“Lesley’s nomination was very touching. It made me very tearful. You have to give the care you would want for your own family. No half measures.

“I was given until Christmas and I am still here. I am living my life like I have always taught the children in my care.

‘Lonely world’

“I have always encouraged them to live their lives, not wait around. They have taught me an awful lot in terms of how to manage the situation.

“I believe that is why I am doing so much better than anyone expected.”

Ms Chen, whose daughter has Charge syndrome, which causes a combination of acute physical and mental disabilities, said: “Jo makes me feel safe. She knows our girl so well.

“She has stayed on after her shift finished many times to sit with us.

“She is always positive and offers adult company in what can be a lonely hospital world.”

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