A life saved: appreciated and remembered

Published on: June 27, 2013

June Hendley of Kings Point in Sun City Center has an emotional reunion with Susan O’Sullivan while on a trip to England earlier this month.

June Hendley of Kings Point in Sun City Center has an emotional reunion with Susan O’Sullivan while on a trip to England earlier this month.


An emotional reunion between two women earlier this month has left an impact on both that each says they’ll never forget.

June Hendley and Susan Mann O’Sullivan have talked on the phone, emailed and Skyped, but they hadn’t seen each other in person since Susan was four years old.

Meeting with Susan was one of the most important things on June’s agenda during her recent trip back to England.

June, who lives in the Kings Point development of Sun City Center, moved to the United States 22 years ago from England.

A nurse specializing in midwifery, June has delivered countless babies, most of whom she never saw again.

But one day in 1973, a tiny girl was brought to the hospital ward where she worked.

“She was about four weeks old, and she was being tubed because she couldn’t swallow or suck,” June said. “She had failure to thrive. My nursing colleagues tried everything they knew. I guess because I was a little older, more experienced, and had had children already, I just had a feeling what I should do.”

Everyone else had pretty much given up because no matter what they tried, the child continued to worsen.

“They all just put the nipple in her mouth and said she wouldn’t eat,” she said.

So June began by giving the baby lots of love and attention. Holding her and talking to her. Then she tried feeding her but when that didn’t work, she devised a way to get the formula down.

“I knew something had to be done or she wouldn’t survive. I put my thumb under her throat and massaged her throat,” she said, demonstrating how that would force someone to swallow.

Once she had her eating some, June taught the baby’s mother, Beryl, to do it.

“She had other children. Older kids. But she hadn’t thought to do that.”

When Beryl took her daughter home, June continued to check up on her and the family became friends.

June moved to the States in 1991, but never lost contact with Susan’s family and as Susan grew older, she began to talk with June herself.

Now Susan is almost 40 and has an 11-year-old daughter named Sinead. She teaches hair dressing at a college, June said.

In an email interview with Susan, she described the recent meeting as “incredibly emotional.”

“I couldn’t believe I was meeting her. She saved my life,” Susan said. “June emigrated when I was really young and although we have talked on the phone and emailed and Skyped it was absolutely amazing to meet her in the flesh. The day was an emotional roller coaster. There were tears of joy when we met and tears of sadness when we had to leave. Now I’m saving up for a visit to Florida so we can spend more time together.”

For now though, they continue almost daily contact by computer.