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Jeffreyston mother ‘nearly died’ from flu

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Happier times: Helen (on the right) pictured this week with Sam

Happier times: Helen (on the right) pictured this week with Sam

A PEMBROKESHIRE mum, who nearly died after being struck down by influenza, says it not only had a devastating effect on her but on her family too.

Helen Watts, who is asthmatic, was extremely ill in a critical care unit for a week in March and is still not well enough to go back to work.

The 42-year-old, from Jeffreyston in Pembrokeshire, said it frightened her children to the extent that after she came home, her young son checked her pulse at night to make sure she was still alive.

“And I think it was all because I didn’t have the flu vaccine,” said Helen, who is in the at-risk category because of her asthma.

In March, Helen came down with what she thought was a cold but which, after 24 hours, seemed more like a chest infection.

This exacerbated her asthma and she became so unwell that husband Lee took her to A&E at Withybush Hospital.

Helen was given antibiotics and other medication, and was admitted so tests could be carried out.

Within 24 hours, her condition deteriorated and she was admitted to the high dependency unit with what was later diagnosed as the H1N1 strain – more commonly known as swine flu.

Helen said: “I was very poorly and on the brink of being ventilated.

“It did improve after that but I was in HDU for a week and in hospital for about two weeks afterwards being very poorly.

“The doctors told me I am lucky to be here.”

Although Helen has little memory of her time in hospital, twin sister Sam Robinson, from Carmarthen, remembers it all too vividly.

Sam said: “Helen was having seizures, being bagged and central lines put in.

“Anyone who has been with someone in a critical care situation will empathise with that. You’re living for every minute.

“It was hard as a sister to watch someone that you love so much going through that. It was upsetting. I never want to see her in that position again.

“It could have been avoided, possibly, with the flu vaccination. She certainly wouldn’t have got as ill as she did.”

Helen was getting better but still quite poorly when this picture of Sam visiting her in hospital was taken. Seven months later, Helen is still not well enough to return to her job as an administrator with a photographic business.

Although she is improving, her lungs are only working at 70% capacity and she has to take a lot of steroids.

She said it had all been very tough on her family, especially on son Harri, aged 11, and 14-year-old daughter Lauren.

Helen said: “People were getting upset seeing me with all the machines, and it was very intimidating for the children.

“It really affected them. After I came home, Harri, who was aged 10 then, was actually checking my pulse in the early hours to make sure I was still alive.

“They wouldn’t let me go anywhere. They wanted to know where I was all the time.

“It was hard on my husband too because he had to deal with everything.

“But everyone was brilliant. I’m just very lucky I’ve got such a good family, and friends were fantastic too.”

Sam is a nurse and has always had the flu vaccine partly because she is also asthmatic, but also to protect the patients she cares for in the Wales Fertility Institute in Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

She also had flu earlier this year but, she said, was not too badly affected because she’d had the vaccine – which covered the H1N1 strain that had such a devastating impact on Helen.

Sam added: “To see my twin sister so poorly like that was very traumatic.

“So for me now it’s not just about protecting patients – I’m urging people to do it for their families too.

“Like Helen said, it’s the whole family that is affected, not just the person who is ill.”

Helen herself is taking no chances and arrived half an hour early to have the flu vaccine the day it was available at her GP surgery – with Harri there to have it too.

Helen said: “We’re not going to miss out on any flu vaccination ever again. We’ve had a hard lesson to learn.”

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Appeal after woman sexually assaulted on cycle path near Haverfordwest

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POLICE officers in Haverfordwest are appealing for witnesses after a woman was sexually assaulted at approximately 4.30pm on Sunday (May 16).

The woman was walking along the cycle path between Haverfordwest and Tiers Cross when she was approached by a man who threatened and assaulted her, before walking away towards Haverfordwest town.

The male is described as a white male, between 5ft 4 and 5ft 11 tall , normal build with a welsh accent. He has short dark hair, a beard and a moustache, brown eyes, and wearing light blue jeans, navy/dark blue jersey with grey sleeves. Anyone who saw a man matching this description in the area between 3.30pm and 5pm in the afternoon.

A 35-year-old man has been arrested and is currently in police custody.

The cycle path is currently closed while the investigation continues.

Detective Superintendent Jayne Butler, who is leading the investigation, said “Incidents of this nature are extremely rare in the Dyfed-Powys area. The public may see an increased presence of police officers in the coming days as police investigate the incident. Anyone with concerns or information that could help our enquiries can speak to those officers or contact police. While a man was quickly arrested we would still like to speak to anyone who saw a man matching the above description in the area yesterday afternoon.”

Anyone with information which could help the investigation is asked to contact police. This can be done online at bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet endorses STEP Fusion application

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Cabinet have today endorsed proposals from Cllr Paul Miller (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) to further progress the nomination of a Pembrokeshire site to host a Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) fusion power station in the county.

Working with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), the proposed site is adjacent to the existing energy facilities on the South Shore of the Haven waterway.

If approved, the facility will initially host research with the ultimate aim of developing this technology which could offer a virtually limitless source of clean electricity by copying the processes that power the sun.

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economic Development said: “I am pleased my Cabinet colleagues endorsed this important programme of work. The Haven Waterway has provided livelihoods, underpinned by fossil fuels, for thousands of Pembrokeshire families, mine included, for more than 50 years. It’s my job to help ensure the waterway continues to provide high skilled, engineering, science and technology jobs for the next generation of this county – and so linked to our focus on climate change (and in addition to our existing multi-million pound commitments to supporting wind, wave and tidal clean power generation) my team have been exploring whether we can also support the development of clean, green fusion technology.

“It’s very early days in the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s site selection process but we’ll provide regular updates as things progress.”

•       STEP is an ambitious programme to design and build a prototype fusion power plant;
•       It is a UKAEA programme, currently with £222m funding from the UK Government to produce a concept design by 2024: https://step.ukaea.uk/

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Re-opening of indoor hospitality and attractions at Milford Waterfront

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RESTAURANTS and indoor visitor attractions in Milford Waterfront are welcoming the return of indoor services from today.

The re-opening of indoor dining allows all restaurants at Milford Waterfront to seat customers indoors. As well as all restaurants on the Waterfront now being able to offer this service, the brand-new Foam Domes overlooking the Milford Haven Waterway are able to open, with bookings being taken from the 19th May.

Indoor visitor attractions are also allowed to re-open. This includes the Waterfront Gallery, which is open today and Phoenix Bowl & Pirate Pete’s Adventure Play which is making preparations to open from Wednesday 19th May. Also, Milford Museum, which has had a new rendered exterior finish, is preparing to open for the end of May.

Lucy Wonnacott, Marketing Manager for Milford Waterfront commented: “We are delighted to see the re-opening of indoor hospitality and visitor attractions here at Milford Waterfront. Each business has their own safety and social distancing measures in place and we kindly ask that you respect and adhere to these for your own safety, and that of others. We hope you enjoy your visit to Milford Waterfront and stay safe!”

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