It became a difficult job to select our six ‘hands ambassadors’ because there were so many people who we felt should be involved, but we are incredibly
honoured and proud to have met six people who we feel very much represent all those who work tirelessly on the NHS front line on a daily basis.
Each of our ambassadors supplied photographs of the back of the right hand and palm of the left, which Tim Milward took and ‘melded’ into our 3D clapping
hands design. They also provided a bit of background on their Covid experiences, which makes humbling reading. We’re very proud to introduce:
Interim Matron for Respiratory Medicine
University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust
It was May who on 8 December 2020 administered the very first COVID-19 ‘jab’ to 90 year old Maggie Keenan at Coventry Hospital. An NHS veteran of 25 years, May was involved on the Covid front line right from the start:
“I was managing an escalation ward on the first days of the pandemic. It was a really challenging time in terms of leading at the front. My staff were scared and rightly so. We didn’t know much about the virus then and the fear was causing havoc in everyone’s mind. I had to show my staff that I was with them. I felt it was my duty to show them that albeit the fear and uncertainty, we can still care for our Covid patients with the same dignity, passion and compassion as we’ve always had and not to let the virus get the better of us. This is our job and we are very good at it.
I volunteered to be redeployed to ITU for 3 weeks during the first wave to help with critically ill patients. It was a very scary time for me and I feared for my family, but I knew I could help and lend my experience, so there was never really any doubt in my mind. The 3 weeks I spent in ITU made me realise how fickle our lives are and made me want to cherish my time more with my family. I have seen patients, who were the same age as me and probably fitter and healthier than me, die of COVID. I considered moving away and living away from my family for the time that I was redeployed, but also didn’t want to not be with them. I had to ensure my infection control was at gold standard if I was to keep Covid from getting into my home. To this day, me nor any of my family members has contracted the virus, for which I am very grateful.
I am extremely honoured to represent my exemplary colleagues within the NHS for this project. I work with the most amazing caring people and to represent them is such a privilege. OUR hands are the loving hands that cares for our family, our friends, our community and all the patients we are privileged to care for. These hands will hold you in your happiest times and in your darkest loneliest hour. With these hands, you are never alone. We will always be here for you and your loved ones.”
ITU Junior Nurse
London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust Ealing
Fathma, 25, was until recently a student nurse at Ealing Hospital, West London. Christopher Bennett saw her appear in a Covid feature on BBC London TV on 19 March 2021 and felt very moved by it, such that he was keen to ask Fathma to become one of our ambassadors. Chris also lives in Ealing, so it was slightly personal.
“I work in Ealing Intensive Care Unit, was born in Ealing hospital and grew up in Southall. I’ve worked In Ealing ITU for just over two years as a junior nurse, so I’m not sure if that classes me as newly qualified anymore. Being born in Ealing hospital, the hospital always felt special to me. The first year was a steep learning curve but I loved it. I felt like I was always meant to be an ITU nurse. (Never worked anywhere else).
It’s around the second year covid hit. I don’t think I or many other people had time to process what was happening but more to just get on. Patients kept doubling, tripling, we were completely over stretched. I had never seen so much death. But then the second wave came and for me a lot worse. I kind of knew this time what was coming. A lot of people say the second wave was better as we were more prepared. But I was not prepared to see so many young people die. I don’t think you can be prepared for that. Before patients mainly came intubated but this time more were on masks, so you would have to have difficult conversations, forming some sort of relationship that you can’t help as the bedside nurse. watch them struggling to breath and knowing the outcome does not look good.
Finally you are left with exhaustion, I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about leaving. I did a few times but we have an amazing team here. This covid period has been extremely tough and tiring but it is the team I work in, the people I work with, who are like my family that helps me get through it. So having all these hands come together, in a way represents that we are a team and that is really nice.”
DR. AMIE BURBRIDGE
Consultant Acute/General Internal Medicine
University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust
“Working on the front line during the pandemic was a rollercoaster. Every day was different and challenging, we were all facing the unknown and this was scary, not knowing what could happen or initially how to treat COVID. The way everyone in the hospital worked together as a team to fight COVID still amazes me every day. There was, and still is, such camaraderie that makes me proud to be part of the NHS.
COVID has completely changed my life, and I can’t imagine life ever going back to what it was like before. Life has become more simple, slower and I definitely appreciate life more, especially watching the changes in the garden through the seasons. However, it will be so nice to see family and friends again and one day have a much needed hug!
Being invited to be part of ‘the hands’ was an incredible honour. The hands perfectly represents how everyone in the NHS has come together to work in partnership. For me it really tells the story of how walking hand in hand, supporting each other, and providing strength has helped cope with the unprecedented difficulties that the NHS has faced during the pandemic."
Kershaw Ward Manager
Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust
“Honestly, at times I had feelings of hopelessness and fear. No day was the same. Not knowing what to expect the next day was a challenge for me. But as a leader you have to be strong and have faith. The pandemic has allowed me to challenge myself and to go above and beyond to provide care for the most vulnerable, when the level of risk had increased significantly. But throughout this experience I knew that I was not alone, because of the great level of support my team provided.
As a front-line worker, it gives me the opportunity to appreciate life as you care for patients who are at the end of their life. This is an indication that anyone can be vulnerable at any particular time. Unfortunately, on the older adult’s ward, we experienced loss of patients and a staff member (one of my staff passed away as a result of being on the frontline caring for patients and a plaque has been put on Kershaw Ward in her honour) which did get to you and had a massive impact on staff wellbeing. Truly, the level of compassion towards my colleagues has increased tremendously and I don’t think we would have survived without teamwork.
Tough times should not define you, because life can change in a twinkle of an eye, therefore appreciate the people around you. Remember tough times never last forever, but resilient individuals do.”
Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust
“When the first wave of Covid started I was on the frontline in the Emergency Department as well as the admissions unit taking patients to and from ITU. It didn’t faze me at first because we just got on with it; I come to work to give the best of my ability and to work as part of the team to take care of people and that’s what we did.
Being FIT tested for full PPE was a scary moment and I had some worries in the back of my mind – it was a shock. I was seeing first-hand the doctors and nurses who’d been in full PPE for 12, 13 hours coming out of ITU, their expressions, body language and the scars the equipment made. Then in the days and weeks that followed it became a really proud achievement to have all my colleagues around me and to be a part of that team.
I work all around the hospital transporting patients, bloods, equipment as well collecting these from the villages nearby and from Leeds, and this didn’t stop during the pandemic. From the start of patient care to the finish it’s a team effort. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I feel overwhelmed to be a part of this project. I’ve been at HDFT around 2 years and to me, my colleagues are not colleagues, but friends and family. I have so much love and respect for all of them. I wouldn’t be here without their support. I feel so privileged to work alongside so many amazing doctors and nurses and when they call my name and ask for help with something, to do it as fast as I can in and safe manner is amazing. I love working with such amazing people and to represent them in this project is an absolute honour.”
Rapid Response Sister
Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
“During the pandemic I was a staff nurse working in intensive care. Sadly I have witnessed more death in the last 12 months than in my 7.5 years training/working in the NHS. I can’t put into words just how heart-breaking and horrific the situation has been, however many of my military trained medical and nursing colleagues would often comment that working in ITU was worse than any field hospital they’d been in. I am forever thankful to all who rallied to support us in ITU through events never seen before, especially when other areas - wards, community hospitals and care homes had equally as much pressure, death and trauma, with less support. ITU has had a lot of news coverage but we could not have coped without support from all areas and specialities, and the public for following lockdown rules.
When the clapping started last year I remember missing several weeks of it. I was working most Thursdays in ITU. Too focused on my patients to hear the clapping and sirens outside the hospital, but it was always touching to see it afterwards on social media. The first Thursday I was at home to witness it myself was very emotional. Unfortunately as things went on the claps became highly politicised and began to feel like a weapon against us at times, particularly when it comes to fair pay across the NHS. However I hope that by creating these pins and raising money for NHSCT we can bring the original meaning back to the claps and support the NHS and its patients to recover from the horrors of this past year.”