Roofer who fell from a building now a midwife at Northwick Park
- Credit: Archant
Construction worker Paul Byrne broke 11 bones when he fell to earth and almost died but has found a new life as a midwife at Northwick Park Hospital.
The 50 year-old fell off a roof in 2011 just eight months after his beloved partner died of lung cancer.
A former roofer, he made the dramatic career change when injuries including a broken back, legs and arms left him hospitalised for 14 weeks.
“Nursing appealed,” he said. “I was looked after so well as a patient myself and midwifery dawned on me. I wanted to do something life affirming so I went for it.”
The education system had other ideas when faced with this middle-aged builder. Paul had left school at 15 with no qualifications and now wanted to enter an almost exclusively female profession.
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He was refused a grant to do a one year access course but paid his way by returning to roofing. “It was terrifying but I had to get back on my horse,” he said. “My family were very supportive, they were rooting for me.”
With 10 distinctions he successfully won a place at the University of West London and moved from Ireland to London.
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“I had two choices, stay on disability and do nothing or get my arse into gear and do something else.”
One of less than 200 males working in the 40,000 strong profession, he works at Northwick Park Hospital but not all are happy to see him.
“I’ve had 118 refusals and counting and that has largely been male partners uncomfortable with me being present. There are also people’s cultural beliefs, I understand but people have to realise what the NHS can realistically offer,” he said.
“We encourage more men to enter the profession but it’s not like TV’s One Born Every Minute, we’re all looking for that type of hospital so we can work there,” he joked.
“When it goes well it’s the most amazing privilege of seeing both new life and excited families celebrating. Sometimes things can go wrong, that’s when your skills have to be very sharp.
“It’s a great experience and a great privilege.”
Next year he is marrying Sheila who he met after his partner died. He did not ask her out on a date until after he qualified in 2016. “My brother in law said ‘it took you long enough!’”