Spotlight on...Kathryn Brown

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Owner, Nana G’s Daycare, Portadown

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Kathryn Brown

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SET UP ONE OF THE ONLY NURSERIES IN NORTHERN IRELAND FOR CHILDREN WITH COMPLEX NEEDS?

I was a paediatric nurse in a hospital for 14 years and then worked as a community children’s nurse, and realised a lot of children with complex needs can’t go to a normal nursery. Nurseries might have one member of staff trained, but I started to think it would be great to have somewhere for them where everyone was trained.

HOW DID YOU SET IT UP?

I approached Invest NI in 2015. They thought it was a bit mad but agreed to give it a go. Two years later we opened. It was a long old process. We couldn’t get insurance in Northern Ireland so had to go to England, where a woman agreed to take us on as a case study because she had never seen anything like it before. I got a loan and went looking for premises, as we needed a lot of space to house all the medical equipment and ensure children are visible at all times.

WHAT KIND OF NEEDS DO THE CHILDREN HAVE?

The majority are tube-fed. We have some SWAN (Syndrome Without A Name) children, some with CHARGE syndrome, a lot of brain injuries and birth trauma, cerebral palsy, severe autism and haemophilia. But we also have some children with no needs at all; it’s a 50:50 mix so sick children can be brought up alongside well ones. We have 12 children and strict 3:1 ratios, with a paediatric nurse on site at all times.
 
HOW HAS THE NURSERY BEEN RECEIVED?

There has been huge demand here, and I know there’s even more in Belfast, so I would like to expand there. It does take parents a long time to adjust to the idea though. They often contact us, go away and think very hard before enrolling. We talk to them about training and get an individual care plan made. Naively when we started I thought we’d give mums and dads respite, but most had given up full-time jobs to care for their children. We’ve given them the opportunity to return to work, then come back knowing their children have had all their medicine and also had fun with their friends.

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