Horton-trained Malaysian nurses return for reunion 40 years later

The Malaysian nurses outside the Horton General Hospital where they trained more than 40 years ago. Photo: OUH
The Malaysian nurses outside the Horton General Hospital where they trained more than 40 years ago. Photo: OUH

A group of Malaysian nurses returned to the Horton General Hospital on Friday (May 17), more than 40 years after they originally worked there.

Around 20 nurses reunited to explore the hospital and Banbury, which many consider their home, despite now living in locations as diverse as Malaysia, Australia, and the USA.

The nurses enjoy a cuppa in the Horton restaurant. Photo: OUH

The nurses enjoy a cuppa in the Horton restaurant. Photo: OUH

Lucy Yapp, one of the last nurses to be trained in the Horton, arranged the tour with former nurse Mei Lin Wong getting the reunion organised from Malaysia.

The nurses were welcomed to the hospital for a tour and visited their old departments, including both the trauma and children’s wWards, before finally stopping off at the hospital restaurant for a bite to eat and a chat about their shared experiences.

Chet Argent (nee Khoo), who came to the UK from Malaysia in 1975, said: “Everybody has dreamed of coming back to the Horton.

"We got in contact with as many of our nurses as we could and set up a reunion group.

"Our time at the hospital was a foundation for all of our friendships – this is our teenaged home, and where these life-long friendships started.

"It’s lovely to come back and see what our 'school' has turned into!

“This is where it all began – our careers, our friendships, even our families! This visit is like coming home.

"Banbury and the Horton will always have a place in our hearts, they’re so important to us.”

There was one unexpected highlight of the trip. Yvonne Blencowe, who works as voluntary services manager at the trust, was reunited with Patricia Choo who delivered her daughter 37 years ago.

Surajah Hunter, who now lives in South Tyneside and is still working as a nurse, said: “I was 18 when I left Malaysia, and having that sense of community was so important.

"It’s even the little things – we had to get used to British food and weather, and some of the older nurses helped us learn and adapt and became real mother figures.

“We all had such fun here – we were all in the same boat in that we were away from home and living in nursing accommodation.

"There were never any fights or arguments, and we’d share everything and cook for each other every night.”

After a busy and emotional morning, the nurses kindly donated £210 to the children’s ward through the Horton General Hospital Charity.

Sarah Vaccari from the charity said: “We’re incredibly grateful to these nurses for both their service at the Horton and also their generous donation.

“Their kindness will make a direct difference to the hospital, and we hope that they thoroughly enjoyed their visit.”