Woman was given only 5 years to live. 30 years later, she wants to find nurse who helped her survive

"She might have thought she was doing her job but it went above and beyond that. Those little things you did made me get through that"
July 3, 2018 2:51 pm Last Updated: July 3, 2018 2:51 pm

On Liz Brown’s 14th birthday, she woke up paralyzed. She was admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, in 1989, and was diagnosed with an aggressive osteoblastoma—a cancerous tumor on her spine.

The outlook wasn’t good, and her doctors said she’d only live roughly another five years. On top of that, Brown was struggling to learn how to walk again and her spirit had been seriously damaged by the ordeal.

Brown said that her nurse throughout her hospitalization kept her positive and distracted.

With so much to take in at such a young age, nobody would have looked down on Brown if she’d collapsed under the weight of her circumstances. But her nurse, a woman named Debbie Bye, managed to keep her hopes up.

“[Debbie] saw how hard I found it being on that ward with 14-year-old hormones flying around and being told pretty much that I was going to die,” Brown told the BBC.

“She would give me jobs to do and take the mick out of me. She gave me a job as a postman so I could deliver post to the adult patients, silly things like that to make it less painful than it could be.”

To the shock and joy of everyone in the hospital, Brown survived. She was discharged from the hospital after four months, is now a mother of three, and has been cancer-free for nearly 30 years.

On her 43rd birthday,Brown made a plea on Twitter to help her find the nurse who helped her through her darkest hour.

Brown’s plea on Twitter included what little information she remembered about her nurse. She wanted to thank Bye, who was only 21 years old at the time she and Brown met.

“She might have thought she was doing her job but it went above and beyond that. Those little things you did made me get through that,” Brown said.

Her tweet made the rounds, and eventually reached Bye’s friends and former coworkers. Bye said she started receiving messages from people on social media asking if she was the nurse in the photo being passed around.

“I enjoyed my job and did my job to the best I could, but didn’t feel like I had made that much impact on someone that 30 years later they could remember my name—it’s a bit overwhelming,” Bye told the BBC.

Brown and Bye eventually had a reunion on Facebook, but intend to meet in person soon.

Both said they were in tears when they finally got in touch with each other. Bye said she remembered the teen well, and always wondered what had happened to her.

“I often wondered what happened to Lizzy,” Brown said. “I just tried to make it home from home. We did bobbing apples and went on day trips. We even had nights where we took the kids to nurse’s flats and just had pizza and watched videos.”

Brown said she didn’t realize how much Bye meant to her until she was speaking to her. Brown said Bye’s tender commitment and support encouraged her to work with children.

“Debbie inspired me to go on to work with children as a sensory support assistant, and I think everything I have done is down to the way she realized that spirited, rebellious teenager was a real person, no matter what was wrong with her.”