Picture: Author and gynaecologist Sean Watermeyer at Nuffield Health Vale hospital
An exceptional collaboration between a Cardiff consultant gynaecologist in his mid-50s and a 22-year-old children’s illustrator has resulted in the launch of a beautiful children’s rhyming Christmas-theme book, with all the royalties going to a young people’s homeless charity.
Family man Sean Watermeyer has been helping couples to conceive, carry and deliver babies for over 15 years. Vanessa Williams graduated in illustration earlier this year but as a student was already working with Sean Watermeyer on a range of books. Often inspired by tales he told his three children (now all students) whilst they were growing up, medic Sean comes from a literary family with both his mother and grandfather having worked as writers and journalists.
Alongside seven others, Sean is a consultant gynaecologist with Nuffield Health Cardiff and Vale Hospitals, part of the largest UK health charity, which is supporting his charity book launch. He also works in the NHS at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Llantrisant, serving the people of Rhondda Cynon Taff.
Like many of his colleagues, he has experienced and recovered from Covid and he pays tribute to the amazing work and dedication of all staff in the healthcare sector during this pandemic – the whole fantastic team who continue to work in such challenging circumstances. Since the spring, Sean has worked with NHS cancer patients at the Vale hospital, as part of Nuffield Health pandemic support.
Sean tells us of a varied career path, where he uses writing to unwind from the stresses of a top-level profession. Having completed a degree in Genetics in 1985 from University College Swansea, he trained to be a Doctor, qualifying some five years later at Cardiff Medical School in 1990. As a third-year medical student, he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a medical cadet to help fund the last three years of his degree. Before joining the RAF, he recalls in the first couple of years of Med School, being ‘a bit skint’ since there were no grant or loans available for anyone doing a second degree. He adds “But my parents were fantastic and with their help together with part-time work in local pubs, and some tutoring, I managed to get by.”
Following house jobs, Sean attended Officer Training at RAF College, Cranwell and thoroughly enjoyed his time in the RAF. He was lucky enough to have some amazing experiences whether it was the thrill of low flying with night vision goggles, jumping out of aircraft or just being the expedition ‘Doc’ on a sailing expo around the Channel Islands. Later he was sent out to Germany where he was proud to serve for a time as a Tornado Squadron Medic. Detachments to Canada, time in Ascension Island and a tour of Bosnia followed, before coming back to the UK as a fully-fledged GP.
After completing his commission in the RAF, he was not quite ready to settle down. With a young family, much to his wife’s dismay, he started at the bottom of the pile again as a senior house officer at the Heath, University Hospital of Wales to retrain in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The birth of his firstborn son was the pivotal moment for this change in career direction. He thought what a fantastic gift to give any person – to help them achieve a pregnancy, see them through their antenatal time and then to help safely deliver their baby.
At Nuffield Health in Cardiff, he works as one of the specialist menopause consultants. Today, most of his NHS work is focused around the diagnosis and treatment of gynaecological cancer, although he still does infertility work and in fact, one of his previous publications was a book designed specifically to help couples who were having difficulty conceiving.
For a time he had the privilege to work with PONT (Partnership Overseas Network Trust) based in Pontypridd who do fantastic work in Mbale, Eastern Uganda. Visits to Mbale certainly taught him a great deal about human need in Uganda, but also opened his eyes to the very real need at our own back door. This helped make his decision to raise funds for Centrepoint, a charity that helps and rehabilitates young, homeless individuals across the UK.
Illustrator, Vanessa Williams, first began working remotely with Sean whilst completing her degree portfolio at Falmouth University. Alongside art, she loves music, but explained how she has loved painting and drawing ever since playgroup! Sean says of his illustrator, ‘Vanessa is hugely talented, and for sure it is her illustrations which bring my stories to life’. They have worked together on all his children’s books to date, with more in the pipeline. Vanessa has also recently written, illustrated and published her own book for children, based on personal experience, on the difficult theme of coping with the grief and heartbreak of losing a parent. On her professional partnership with writer Sean, Vanessa says “Sean has presented me with a great opportunity for which I am immensely grateful, especially at the current time.”
The colourful new book, entitled “Bernie the Christmas Spirit” features a loveable little spirit who spreads Christmas love and joy, but he begins to fade as people ignore, and become hardened to the giving and joy of Christmas until the generosity of a little girl called Mary changes peoples’ hearts. All the proceeds are going to Centrepoint, which provides housing and support for young people regionally. Prince William, HRH The Duke of Cambridge, has been a patron of the charity since 2005.
The Christmas book is an ideal stocking filler, priced at £6.99, available from Amazon Books and at the Nuffield Health Cardiff and Vale Hospital reception desk, Covid-restrictions permitting.