Leeds nurse retires from late blooming career

Christine Thomas.
Christine Thomas.
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She’d wanted to become a nurse for as long as she could remember - but couldn’t go against her father when he forbade it.

So Christine Thomas went into a different medical field, always harbouring the desire to nurse.

At the age of 52 she finally began her nursing training and now she has retired from her post as rheumatology research nurse, aged 73.

Mrs Thomas, from Gledhow, Leeds, said: “I’ve just been so incredibly lucky. I had always wanted, from being about six, to be a nurse but my father said no.”

Instead Mrs Thomas trained as a phlebotomist, taking blood from patients. She and husband Peter came to Leeds in 1964 and she started work at Seacroft and Killingbeck hospitals in 1972 before moving to Chapel Allerton Hospital.

A serious illness in 1984 made her reassess her life and she decided to become a nursing auxiliary. Colleagues at Chapel Allerton noticed her affinity for the role and asked her if she had considered going into nursing.

“I said I would’ve loved to, but it’s too late now,” she said. However, undeterred they wrote her a reference and Christine was accepted onto a nursing course, where she was the oldest student.

“It’s the best thing I have ever done, apart from having my children,” said Mrs Thomas, who has four children and four grandchildren. “It’s the thing that’s given me the most satisfaction.”

After becoming a Registered Nurse in 1993, she worked on a ward for elderly people at Chapel Allerton then in rheumatology, an area of special interest as she suffers from osteoarthritis. Mrs Thomas took on more senior roles within the hospital and did a degree in healthcare studies at Leeds University in 1999, moving to work in rheumatology research in 2002.

Mrs Thomas, a former Lord Mayor of Leeds, said she hoped her journey would inspire others: “That’s what’s so wonderful with the world now, that you can do things later in life.”

The 73-year-old, who lost her husband in 2009, plans to maintain her links with the NHS through voluntary work.

David Pickles, acting lead rheumatology research nurse, said: “She is well-loved by staff and patients alike and it has been a privilege to have been one of her colleagues for the past seven-and-a-half years.”

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