A SUPPORT worker who has cared for thousands of sick youngsters retires today after more than 25 years.

Kate Barber, of Kidlington, has provided countless hours of support to families and children suffering from cancer.

The grandmother-of-four has dedicated herself to looking after ill children, both at the John Radcliffe Hospital and the Oxford Children’s Hospital.

Mrs Barber said: “I have worked with so many children.

“We get to know all the children really well because a lot of them have their treatments for three years or more.

“I have worked with the NHS for more than 30 years. I started at the Rivermead Rehabilitation Centre and I first came to the children’s ward 25 years ago. It is very rewarding.

“Tears have been flowing over the past few weeks.”

Mrs Barber’s first job at 17 was working for Barclays Bank.

She worked at the bank for eight years before she had her two children, Simon and Gemma.

But after her mother Nellie Edmunds died from a brain tumour in the 1980s, Mrs Barber decided to retrain in healthcare.

The 59-year-old said: “My mum had a brain tumour and she was in a nursing home.

“I saw the care given from all the nurses and that’s what made me think I could do that sort of job. I wanted to repay their kindness and I wanted to give back something the nurses had given my mum.”

Mrs Barber added: “It is a lot of pressure. We do have moments when it is very sad when you lose a child.

“But the majority make it through and it is a very happy ward. It is very enjoyable and they have lots of happy times.

“You get to know them really well. This ward is a very small, family-orientated ward. All the nurses know everyone and my role alongside my colleague Theresa is really just to befriend the children and help out anything they need.”

Mrs Barber first worked on the night team at the children’s ward and then moved on to ward 4C.

She said: “The main thing I have noticed was that the treatment was nowhere near as good as what it is now. It was really hard when I first worked on the ward, because once the treatment had been done, there was nothing else that they could do to help them.

“Research into children’s cancer has been so well done.

“In the past, if a child had leukaemia, they would try to do a bone marrow transplant, but it wasn’t very successful.

“Now, I would say the majority of patients get through the transplant.”

Mrs Barber organised Emily’s Big Walk at the hospital in September 2012 to raise awareness of children’s cancer.

Now she looks forward to her retirement with her husband Dave, and spending time with her four grandchildren Millie, four, three year-old twins Dylan and Oscar, and Isla, two.

Manager Clare Jamieson said: “Kate has been a valued member of the Kamran’s Ward team.

“She has supported patients and families from diagnosis to completion of treatment.

“She has comforted families by providing emotional and practical support and advice as they require it.

“Kate also supports staff and is always there to listen or give a hug.

“She will be missed by the whole team and patients alike and will leave a large hole in the Kamran’s Ward family.”