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A Significant Medical History

IT'S like a royal progress down the hospital corridor; a warm greeting, sometimes a hug, always a laugh and often a joke.

Lily Hendry, nearly 70 but still a hard working and much-loved theatre nurse at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank, is an institution.

So much so she has been shortlisted for the Extra Mile Award in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Diamond Awards.

Lily, of Robroyston, scoffs at stereotypes. So she's getting on in years? You'd never know it. Younger colleagues gasp at her energy levels and wish they could keep up with her.

"The girls I work with will say: would you calm down? You make me awful tired watching you," she admits.

Theatre nurse Margaret McIntyre, who nominated Lily for the award, says: "She is one of life's unsung heroes, who would go more than that extra mile for just about anything that breathes.

"She is an adopted mother to a multitude of staff, from the theatre cleaners to the surgeons, bringing in breakfast and lunch and always ready with a snack just when you need it most.

"She is supposed to start at 7.30am, but is in just after 6am getting everybody's theatres started. If you get sent to do a job, you can bet nine times out of 10 she has been there and done it."

Lily's dedication is such that even when she was due to have an exploratory operation at Stobhill at 2pm at the beginning of the year, she offered to work until noon.

"They thought I might have bladder cancer," she admits.

"It was just a bad infection, but it was a scary time. People would be passing me in the corridors in tears."

Margaret says: "I asked colleagues for words that described Lily. They came up with team worker, teacher, caring to a fault, adaptable, keen, cheery, professional, hard-working, loyal, conscientious, exuberant, empathetic, generous to a fault, good role model, most definitely a sucker for a sob story, genuine, loving, energetic whirlwind, storyteller and entertainer and, most of all, a survivor.

"I could go on but you would think you were hearing about an angel."

Lily was a busy young mother of three children, with a fourth on the way, when she joined the NHS more than 40 years ago. She started as an auxiliary, before training as a nurse and then in theatre nursing and opthamology.

SHe is now a great-grandmother, with seven great-grandchildren whose ages range from six to 16.

Her husband Bobby, 75, is retired, but she says: "I would not know what to do with myself if I didn't work."

In her career in several Glasgow hospitals, including the Western, the Royal Infirmary and Gartnavel, Lily has seen massive changes in theatre work.

She has also been stabbed by a surgeon in Gartnavel.

"He didn't mean it," she says, with a laugh. "He dropped a blade on the floor.

"There was a lot of blood on the floor and we couldn't think where it was coming from until we discovered it was from a deep wound in my foot.

I didn't feel a thing.

"They took me to the sluice to stitch me up and I carried on. It was a dirty blade, but in those days there was not so much infection or worry about Aids."

Yet, oddly, Lily is squeamish when it comes to TV medical soaps. "I can't watch knife on skin - it looks much gorier on telly."

One happy memory involves the former Duke Street Hospital.

"I was the scrub nurse when the last baby was born there by Caesarean section before the maternity section closed the following week.

"The baby was handed over to the midwife by the surgeon, but it never cried. Being the mother of all these children, I panicked until the baby let out this scream.

"When we went to take the mother into the ward, the father was standing outside the theatre and he shouted Jean, we've got a wee lassie.' He started crying and so did I. I'm very emotional."

Lily has been on mercy missions to Ghana three times, helping with reconstruction surgery on burns in adults and children, and is an adopted granny to several children.

She would carry her own clothes in her flight bag and load up her main luggage with toys for the children. "I was 19 kilos overweight last time," she says.

"It was so terrible that the first time I went I spent three days crying. One lady was burned from the top of her head to below the waist. Her husband had thrown a can of kerosene over her and set it alight."

She shook her head. "Most of these poor people live in tin huts and their lighting is kerosene lamps. One three-month-old had lost her right arm when a kerosene lamp overturned on her cot."

Her own life has not always been easy, but you would never know it. With the help of Bobby, she cared for her older sister, Cathie - who was dying of lung cancer - in their own home three years ago because she had begged Lily not to allow her to go into a hospice.

Lily was 65 before the new law was introduced that allows workers to ask to stay on after the official retirement age if their employer agrees.

"I was told on the Friday they had to retire me, but they said I could start again on the Monday as a bank nurse."

Lily can see herself carrying on nursing for years yet.

"This is my social life as well as my working life. It is nice to be able to do what you do best.

My grandmother lived until she was 101 and I hope I am still working then."

WOE BETIDE the germ looking to do a bit of damage in the Golden Jubilee National Hospital. There is not much chance of it escaping Anne Gallacher's eagle eye.

She and her cleaning partner, Ina Benson, 62, are always on the warpath to ensure there are no bugs.

Anne, 58, from Old Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire, has been shortlisted for a Behind The Scenes Award for her hard work and cheerful dedication to the job.

She is intensely proud of the hospital's reputation and awards for cleanliness.

"There have been no proven incidences of MRSA here," she says. "People are amazed at how clean the place is. It looks like a hotel rather than a hospital."

Every patient has a single room with its own shower and toilet so there is less chance of infection.

"Ina and I have 36 single rooms on our ward," says Anne. "One person cleans the room and the other does the en-suite, so there is no cross-infection.

Anne has four daughters, six grandchildren and two foster grandchildren and is also a registered foster carer, providing respite for other carers at weekends.

But she loves working at the hospital and has no plans to retiring.

Her ward is Ward 2 West, the orthopaedic ward and when doing the job of housekeeper - they don't call them cleaners any more - she sings and dances.

"I like to talk to people. Ina was telling me off for singing Christmas carols at Easter, but we have had loads of cards from people thanking us for cheering them up.

"People say we should be on Stars In Their Eyes."


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Lily hendry and Ann Gallacher can always find time for a smile