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A passion for helping patients leads to academic success

17 July 2018

Alexandra Pyle

Alexandra Pyle believes it is never too late to change career.

A mature student who began her nursing career in her forties, she collected her master’s degree in Wound Healing and Tissue Repair during Cardiff University’s graduation week.

The 58-year-old, who lives in Ely, Cardiff, said: “This is a really proud moment for me. I’m proof that if you put your mind to something it can be achieved.”

It hasn’t been an easy road for Alexandra, who took up nursing later in life, after working for many years as a managing partner of a painting contractors.  Shortly after she began her studies in Plymouth, she discovered she had dyslexia.

“It was actually a relief when I was diagnosed,” said Alexandra, who grew up in Sidmouth, Devon. “I’d always felt that the reason I struggled in school was because I was stupid; however, it’s just that my brain processes information in a different way to others. It made me all the more determined to prove myself.”

Alexandra moved to Cardiff seven years ago and works at the University Hospital of Wales’s (UHW) dermatology department. It was during her time there that she discovered a gap in knowledge of a rare ulcerative condition, Pyoderma Gangrenosum (PG).

“This complaint is hugely painful and disabling for patients that suffer with it,” said Alexandra, now deputy manager of the unit. “These are effectively open wounds that won’t heal up without medical intervention and because the condition is rare, there is a lack of understanding and awareness about how to treat it.”

Keen to change this, Alexandra set out on her masters at the School of Medicine, completing her studies around her full-time job. Carrying out interviews and research with patients suffering from the condition has resulted in her developing improved processes to deal with it.

“It needs to be identified and caught early, or it can lead to years of discomfort for patients,” she said. “Through this work, the UHW Accident and Emergency department now increasingly recognises patients coming in with PG and sends them directly to our specialist team, who are able to start tackling it straight away. It can reduce healing time to as little as six to eight weeks.  One person I’d met had been suffering with this for 16 years – they are now cured and living a full and active life.”

Alexandra went on to achieve one of the highest marks to date for her thesis and a merit in her overall grade. She said: “I’ve discovered I have a real passion for wound healing. I’ve loved studying. The most satisfying aspect is being able to help patients with my newly found knowledge.”

Her daughter Erin, who she said had been “a source of great encouragement”, was present at the ceremony on Tuesday.

“I’m now looking forward to building on this research and spreading the word about PG to help more patients around the UK,” said Alexandra.

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