A dedicated care home worker who survived a brush with death has won an award for going the extra “smile”.
Arlen Lleses, a senior care practitioner at Pendine Park’s Bodlondeb care home in Wrexham, fell seriously ill with a kidney infection in 2017.
Now enjoying what she describes as “a second life” after having her right kidney removed the following year, Arlen continues to go about her work with a big beaming smile on her face.
She has helped brighten up daily life for residents and staff during months of lockdown restrictions at the home this year.
Arlen’s ever-cheerful nature has now been recognised by her winning Pendine Park’s Big Smile Award, which celebrates employees who are always smiling and go the extra mile to help others.
It is an accolade that Arlen admits she may never have lived to receive, given the severity of her ill health when she was hospitalised.
“Before they diagnosed me, I was really poorly,” said Arlen, 51. “I thought I was going to die.
“I had been in hospital for two weeks before they found what was making me so ill.
“I thought I was at the end of living in this world. This is now a second life for me.
“I’m feeling a lot better. I am not worried about only having one kidney, as a lot of people have had one since birth and carried on.”
Arlen was voted the Smile winner for Bodlondeb and she was then selected ahead of 14 other winners from Pendine Park’s other homes and departments to claim the coveted overall award.
“I did not expect to win,” said Arlen, who is married to Edward and has a daughter, Alyssa.
“It was a total surprise when I found out. Everybody has been congratulating me.
“We always have challenging situations and this past year we have had to deal with a pandemic, which has been very difficult.
“But I always try and be positive about everything, rather than negative. It is a very good place to work.”
Originally from the Philippines, Arlen previously worked in an accountancy role in Spain before moving to Wrexham five years ago.
She retrained as a care practitioner after successfully applying for a role with Pendine Park, providing daily support to residents with dementia at Bodlondeb.
Her constant smiling and happy nature has complemented the friendly and supportive ethos that is at the heart of Pendine Park’s work, with Arlen having become a very popular member of staff.
Arlen, who is also an enrichment and activities co-ordinator at the home, added: “It melts your heart when you spend time with the residents.
“I really enjoy working at Pendine Park. Everybody is so friendly and easy to get along with.
“The people I work with were also very considerate when I was poorly.
“This achievement was only made possible by the wonderful people I work with and I would like to recognise all the staff at Pendine Park for their dedication and hard work.”
Bodlondeb manager Ann Chapman was delighted to see Arlen win the award and conveyed how much the home benefits from her presence.
“Arlen’s the type of person that lights up a room. She’s like a bundle of happiness,” said Ann.
“Even when she was seriously ill, she still managed to have a smile on her face.
“Whatever life throws at her, she manages to bounce back and turn a negative into a positive.
“She is one of the happiest people I know and is so humble.”
The Big Smile award was created in 2010, with the winner being selected from the hundreds of employees who work for Pendine Park across North Wales.
Arlen’s name is due to shortly be inscribed onto the shield presented to the winner each year.
As well as the Smile accolades, Pendine Park has been holding its annual Semmelweis awards.
These are named in memory of the physician Ignaz Semmelweis, who is credited with having discovered the importance of handwashing in helping to prevent the spread of germs.
His work has been particularly relevant during 2020, given the universal emphasis placed on handwashing in a bid to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
A total of 13 individuals at Pendine Park have won Semmelweis awards in 12 different categories this year, recognising their high standards of handwashing and cleanliness.