A Sandyford man swaps building sites for babies after horror fall

by Gary Ibbotson
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A Sandyford man who fell off a roof and broke eleven bones has decided to re-train as a midwife.

Originally a roofer, Paul Byrne made the dramatic career change when the accident left him hospitalised for several months.

The 50-year old fell off the roof while undergoing maintenance.

Byrne says that while he was recuperating, he saw first hand the good work that nurses do.

“I knew my days as a roofer were over and the dedication of the nurses really made an impression on me.

“It got me thinking about nursing as a career and midwifery seemed the most life affirming of the 25 or so specialisms.

“The majority of us go through our working lives without feeling we are making much of a difference and I grabbed the opportunity.

“It sounds odd but falling off that roof gave me another shot at life.”

However, Byrne faced further difficulties when he tried to apply for a one-year access course.

Having left school at 15 with no qualifications, he was refused a grant for the course and instead paid his way by returning part-time to roofing.

This was despite doctors saying that another fall could kill him.

He passed with distinction, gaining a place at the University of West London.

“I had to move from Ireland and start from scratch in student digs. It wasn’t easy but where there is a way there is a will,” Byrne said.

It is 40 years since men were first allowed to train as midwives in the UK, and they still make up a tiny proportion of the profession.

Byrne is one of less than 200 males working in the 40,000 strong profession and has learned not to take things personally.

“I’ve had 118 refusals and counting and that has largely been male partners uncomfortable with me being present.

“I love midwifery but it’s a demanding job.”

Byrne describes his role as a cheerleader, saying mothers deliver babies, not midwives – although a safe pair of hands is always useful if complications arise.

“My family and friends are very supportive and when I tell strangers what I do they usually just say wow!

“I’m proud to be a midwife but don’t see myself as anything out of the ordinary.

“What I have learnt is that it’s never too late to be the person you could have been.”

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