Mary Cox

Paediatric surgery staff nurse

For nearly half a century nurse Mary Cox has been caring for patients – and there is no sign of the 68-year-old stopping soon.

The dedicated paediatric surgery staff nurse qualified in 1971 and has been working at City Hospital, Birmingham ever since.

She recalled: “I left my home town in Ireland when I was 18 to do my nurse training in England where I really wanted to make a difference. Now, 50 years have passed and I still think that was the best decision that I have ever made.”

In Mary’s daily role, she ensures that everything is ready for patients when they come to hospital for their operation. She said: “I love my job so much. I get to meet so many people from all walks of life and be there for them in their time of need – I love looking after children, and some of them can be in pain, or sometimes distressed.

“My team and I always try our best to distract them with games and stories.

“We also comfort and support parents, making sure they are fully informed throughout the whole experience.”

Mary, who lives with her husband Bob in Derbyshire, said she feels privileged for having the opportunity to work for the NHS, one of the most beloved institutions in the country, for so many years.

She smiled: “The NHS has truly transformed the way it cares for people. The quality of treatment is getting better every day.

“Years ago babies diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition affecting the lungs, had a very low chance of survival past their first birthday.

“But now, patients with the disorder, are living much longer.”

Mary continued: “It also used to be quite restrictive for parents who were accompanying their child into hospital for surgery. However, that has completely changed now and mums and dads can be with their child for as long as they want to.”

The keen gardener has plenty of memories of the NHS over the years, particularly from the 1970s.

“Many of our disabled patients were in hospital for long periods of time because they weren’t able to be treated at home, so  we had a school for them based within the hospital.

“They were able to take their exams and complete their schooling. We spent so much time with them and in a way, we became their second family.”

Mary credits Bob as her inspiration – as well as one of her colleagues.

She said: “My hero is my husband. Not only is he a clever man but also he has a positive outlook in life. He can always find a solution for any challenge and that really inspires me.

“I also have great respect for my paediatric ward manager Joy Haywood. She is a great manager and very fair. She treats everyone the same and makes us feel motivated.”

Outside work, Mary enjoys looking after her garden and cooking for friends and family.