Life-saver Marie in running for top award

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An Anglesey carer has been shortlisted for a top award not long after she and her husband helped saved the life of a much-loved member of their extended family who is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome.

Marie Smith and her husband Tim were devastated when 55 year old Julie, who shares their home, suffered a life-threatening seizure.

Marie, of Caergeiliog, Anglesey, said: “It happened completely out of the blue, Julie had never suffered anything like it before. Fortunately Tim had completed a first aid course only a week earlier. He knew immediately what to do. He gave Julie CPR while I rang the paramedics.”

Tim continued CPR until the emergency services arrived. The couple’s quick-thinking actions saved Julie’s life.

Marie was surprised but chuffed to bits on hearing she was nominated for recognition at the Wales Care Awards 2019.

They will be presented at a ceremony at Cardiff City Hall on Friday, October 18, hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

Marie is shortlisted to receive a gold, silver or bronze honour. It is in recognition of her outstanding service in the promoting fulfilled lives/leading practice in learning disability categories, sponsored by Boots Healthcare and Morgan La Roche.

Marie and Tim became carers to Julie and two other adults, Stevie and Rachel, after Marie registered with Gwynedd and Anglesey Shared Lives Scheme, where people offer a home to those in need of extra help.

“We’re not a family in the traditional sense, but we’re a family all the same,” said Marie, 47.

The Shared Lives Scheme offers respite, short term placements and long term live-in support for people living with conditions including dementia, physical disability, mental health issues, learning disability and brain injury.

Marie said: “We don’t have children of our own so Julie, Stevie and Rachel are our but live with us on a long term basis”.

extended family. They’re still in touch with and visit their own families but. They’re all strong characters with different hobbies and interests, but we all get along together and we regularly go out as a family enjoying fun activities and social events. It’s so rewarding being part of such a crucial support network.”

Marie was put forward by Gwynedd and Anglesey Shared Lives Scheme manager Lowri Matulla who praised the way Marie goes the extra mile to support individuals who live with her and Tim.

Lowri said: “All three have different needs and range from ages 25 to 55. To look at the household composition on paper one would think the dynamics could never work, but Marie has a way of meeting all three’s needs.

“Visits to the home are always welcoming and homely and the service users enjoy telling the Scheme officer what they’ve been doing.

“The family do everything together – days out, going to the pub, out for meals, shopping and watching international rugby. They all wear Wales rugby shirts when visiting the pub to watch games.”

Marie started her career aged 16, as a care home assistant on the then government-sponsored Youth Training Scheme. She continued in residential homes for many years before moving to Shared Lives.

She said: “The idea of opening our home to help others seemed a natural step forward and offered me a chance to make a real difference as a carer.

“It can be challenging and emotionally traumatic, like when Julie had her seizure. But that would be the same in any close-knit family. We all care for and care about each other.”

Chair of Care Forum Wales, Mario Kreft MBE, said the Wales Care Awards have gone from strength to strength and are now firmly established as a highlight of the Welsh social care calendar.

He said: “The aim is to recognise the unstinting, often remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales. The care sector is full of wonderful people. It’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.

“If you don’t recognise those who do the caring you’ll never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.

“We must do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce who deserve to be lauded and applauded.

“It’s a pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists. Each and every one of them should be very proud of their achievement.”