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Make cancer facilities available for locals

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nhsCANCER can be one of the most devastating illnesses in the modern world. Writing as the husband of a wonderful young woman who was recently a victim of cancer, this freelancer knows first-hand the pain, destruction, anguish, loss, loneliness, helplessness and fears that cancer brings with it. As The Herald recently detailed, local charity Adam’s Bucketful of Hope is campaigning for a Cancer Day Unit to be installed in Withybush Hospital and thus provide local residents with nearby cancer facilities – a campaign The Herald itself is staunchly backing. Having had to face the battle against cancer head-on when my wife was diagnosed, I realise the importance of what they are campaigning for. Life with cancer is a life of appointments, time-frames and regimes; basically a life of routines – and having professional support and guidance in these kinds of scenarios is invaluable. And all aspects of the process come under this same umbrella of professional guidance and support; doctors, nurses, wards, beds, drugs, treatment facilities etc. these are all vital components in the fight against cancer. These days it is easy to have an apathetic attitude towards cancer and attribute it to being an illness that tends to only afflict the older generations in the twilight of their lives. My wife was 24 years young when she lost her battle. Cancer doesn’t care what age you are, where you come from, what your lifestyle is, it can affect anyone, at any time, of any age. Period. From rudimental experience I can honestly profess that were it not for the cancer services and facilities near to home whilst my wife was unwell, I seriously don’t think I could have coped. There is no manual, no ‘Idiot’s Guide’, no training seminars you can attend to make you an expert in dealing with this sort of thing. It’s different for everyone. It’s always different. But it is important to provide patients, as well as those on the periphery, with as much support as possible. Chemotherapy treatments, for example, can last a number of hours; blood tests must be run to check immune systems. Additionally there is any manner of drug concoctions that patients will need to be prescribed and as such they will require facilities close by. When my wife was ill we were fortunate that the hospital was pretty close (around a 20 drive). But eventually even this became a struggle as she was almost perpetually in a great deal of pain. For patients having to travel several hours from home to their nearest facilities this is untenable and can prove extremely traumatic. My wife at one point was taking between 9-15 tablets 4 times a day. These had to be done at specific timeframes, so sorting out meal times became a very regimental process. New drugs would need to be collected regularly, usually biweekly and a lot of the time we were reliant on the hospital to prescribe the right drugs, as we sometimes struggled to keep up with the number of different pills she required. There were further challenges as her illness wore on and she became less and less mobile. Moving around became cumbersome and stairs became a big problem. Eventually she had to use a wheelchair to get around, which provided more issues and yet more cost for her, myself and her family. Money was also a big worry – I wasn’t working whilst she was ill and eventually her mother decided to stop work as well to care for her daughter. I had a bit in savings and was supplementing this with sick pay from my job, but the well soon ran dry. Luckily the cancer unit assigned us a social worker who was responsible for sorting out grants for us, checks to cover transport costs and sorting my wife’s application for benefits (as she was unable to work) to save us the hassle of having to do it ourselves. It was difficult for those around her/us too – her parents and family were incredible and we would often takes turns comforting each other, updating each other on drug regime’s and appointment times and generally just being there for one another. Cancer can be an expensive illness, for patients, their families and for the health service. This is why facilities such as these are vital in the struggle – it is beneficial to everybody and helps with practical matters, such as money, that patients and their families don’t even consider until they become issues. But the health service sectors business is saving lives and without investing the necessary money in the fight against cancer the battle is going to be very one-sided. Facilities such as the ones proposed at Withybush Hospital are imperative to giving patients a fighting chance of survival, or at the very least helping to prolong their lives somewhat. My wife’s original survival prognosis was 4-5 months, due to the support and facilities she was given she fought for 11 months, and I will always be grateful that we had that extra time together. She deserved it. All patients do.

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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