Senior Level Speaker
Author , WHIS Ambassador, Learning Disabilities, Autism and Families
When Yvonne’s middle child, Toby, was born, family life changed overnight. Toby has multiple disabilities and complex medical needs which caused him to become critically ill at a moment’s notice. Yvonne then spent nearly all of the next six years living as a resident parent on children’s wards and paediatric intensive care units all over London and beyond. Toby was not expected to survive. His health could deteriorate significantly at a moment’s notice. Each time his family held their breath while his tenuous grip on life was challenged over and over again. When Toby wasn’t in hospital, his 24-hour medical regime, coupled with outpatient appointments, therapy sessions and community health team visits, ensured that their whole family life was dominated by the NHS.
Against all the odds, Toby is now a young adult, and his eighteenth birthday was a cause for huge celebration among friends and family. However, less than two weeks after he turned eighteen, Yvonne was diagnosed with bi-lateral breast cancer. Despite nearly a year of cancer treatment, the cancer metastasised to her spine, and Yvonne’s life expectancy was estimated to be around 2 more years.
At that point, Yvonne knew immediately what she wanted to do with whatever time she had left. She wanted to make things better for families like her own, and for the healthcare professionals who work with them. She knew that, if the NHS employed Secret Shoppers she would probably have more experience than anyone of seeing close-up exactly how our health systems operate. She had seen so much, both of the very best that the NHS can offer, but also at the other end, the times when things can go very wrong indeed. She had also seen the effects of burn out, demoralisation, poor team dynamics and how policies and procedures, protocols and pathways have often taken over where people, both patients and staff, have been all but forgotten.
Yvonne wrote a book called “The Special Parent’s Handbook” which became an Amazon Number One Best Seller, and she continues to write, she speaks at conferences, she runs training courses and workshops, both at venues and online, and she is very active online, particularly on Facebook and on Twitter where she supports parents and healthcare professionals alike. At the very time she should be taking it easy and putting her house in order, instead she has never been busier or more in demand. She is loving every minute of it, fitting it in around her ongoing cancer treatment which is also working remarkably well. That day she was told she probably only had 2 years to live was over four years ago, and she is determined to stay well for as long as possible because there is so much more work to do.