Inspirational community nurse retires two days before 82nd birthday

Gifts are presented at Maureen Underdown's retirement party.

Gifts are presented at Maureen Underdown's retirement party - Credit: Mick Howes

After some 47 years of service, and having helped thousands of people, an inspirational community nurse has called time on an amazing career.

A "remarkable lady" who "epitomises the spirit of service" was hailed at a special surprise party on Friday, June 10.

And what made this retirement party even more remarkable, was that it came two days before the 82nd birthday of Lowestoft community nurse Maureen Underdown.

Maureen Underdown

Maureen Underdown - Credit: Mick Howes

Retiring from nursing, aged almost 82, Mrs Underdown admitted she had had a "lovely time" as a community nurse, having had a long career as a healthcare assistant with the primary care network team at East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH).

Having started her career as an auxiliary nurse at the old Lowestoft Hospital in 1975, before moving onto the outpatient department at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston in 1981, where she stayed for four years.

It was then that she took up her current role as a community healthcare assistant with ECCH, based at its headquarters in Lowestoft at Hamilton House.

She recalled: "I have been here since 1985 and over the years I've dealt with thousands of patients, becoming good friends with lots of people.

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"Being always happy helps - that makes a big difference. I enjoy a laugh and joke with them all."

Mrs Underdown has mainly worked in Lowestoft over the years, but has also covered Corton, Blundeston, Barnby, Somerleyton and Lound to care for patients there.

Over recent years she has worked part time on five shifts a week from 8.30am to 2.30pm with her team - who she described as a "wonderful bunch of people".

Kate Spence Maureen Underdown

Locality Primary Care Home Lead Kate Spence presents the gifts to Maureen Underdown at her retirement party - Credit: Mick Howes

Mrs Underdown said: "Today is quite sad really.

"I've built up quite a rapport with the patients and they were all sad when I told them I was retiring - but I shall visit some of them when I am out and about.

"My colleagues will carry on the good work - they are a wonderful bunch, they really are."

Before going into nursing, Mrs Underdown worked with elderly patients at Kirkley House and cared for people with mental health conditions at John Turner House in Lowestoft.

At the start of her nursing career she worked as a bath nurse, visiting patients around the community who needed help with general hygiene.

This role has changed over the years and she has been responsible in recent years for administering dressings and wound care.

One of the patients Mrs Underdown has visited regularly has been seen for over a decade.

She added: "'I have loved my job as the patients and my colleagues are so lovely.

"Years ago, we would have seen up to 15 people a day, even now we can see 10 patients a day."

Maureen Underdown with her daughters Lynda Armon and Sue Ramm

Maureen Underdown with her daughters Lynda Armon and Sue Ramm - Credit: Mick Howes

The great-grandmother, who has two daughters Lynda and Sue, worked throughout the Covid pandemic from home and would maintain contact with her patients through regular telephone calls.

Looking forward to her retirement and going on holiday with her two daughters in December, she added: "I will carry on and keep in good health.

"I have so many great memories and will always cherish these."

Back in November 2017, Mrs Underdown was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at ECCH's annual staff awards held at the Hotel Victoria in Lowestoft.

Describing how she got into nursing, Mrs Underdown said that she "always had that caring" nature instilled in her as the middle child in a family of 13 who "were made to look after each other and help each other out".

After marrying her husband Fred in 1959, the couple were together 53 years until Mr Underdown sadly died.

A party with friends, family and work colleagues - around 120 people - is due to be held on June 11 ahead of Mrs Underdown's 82nd birthday on Sunday.

"Today has been lovely - with some sadness," she admitted.

ECCH chief executive Ian Hutchison said: "Maureen is a remarkable lady.

"She has put in a huge amount of service to health care and to continue working throughout the pandemic, well it is incredible.

"She will be really sorely missed by the team and I think probably more so by the patients - she is remarkable, and epitomises the spirit of service."