The NHS is celebrating its birthday on 5th July with the NHS Big Tea, a national celebration of our amazing NHS staff – you can host a Big Tea in person or virtually, with your community or at work. Sign up here.
We have been hearing from some of Newcastle Hospitals Charity’s amazing fundraisers and finding out why they think the NHS is so special.
At the start of 2020, Rachel Booth, an occupational therapist from Middlesbrough, was looking forward to a positive new challenge at work and busy at home planning her wedding with fiancé, Anthony Gardiner.
Then, just as Covid was becoming a reality we would all have to deal with, everything changed for Rachel.
What began as a feeling of dreadful heartburn became extremely painful and required an ambulance to hospital. She waved goodbye to Anthony, little knowing she would not see him again for months.
Rachel was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and Covid, which required very lengthy treatment. In total, she spent more than a year in the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, much of it in intensive care units.
During that time, visitors were not permitted or very rarely allowed because of necessary Covid safety restrictions, making a difficult situation much worse for Rachel.
At times she felt extremely low, and often she was so poorly she was unsure what was happening around her. Days and even weeks slid by without her really knowing what was happening outside the hospital and an intensive routine of treatment and physiotherapy was often physically painful.
In an additional blow, Rachel and Anthony missed their wedding in September. On the day they should have been married, Anthony was allowed to visit and he came wearing a suit and bringing messages of love and support from family and friends. He also brought plastic flowers, as these were the only sort permitted.
Thankfully, in April 2021 Rachel was finally well enough to return home. She was given a diary that the nurses had kept when she was in the intensive care units.
Rachel says: “The diary entries are pretty mundane, a little upsetting but in a way comforting too.
“There’s only a few of them but each day the nurse would write who they were, and what I had done that day. Some days I was completely out of it and on other days a physio would visit and I would manage to sit on the edge of the bed.
“In the last entry, a nurse wrote, ‘you are doing all the breathing yourself. I can hear your beautiful voice.’ Another nurse wrote about things that were happening in the news that day. I liked hearing about the things I was missing.”
At home, Rachel has a lot of physical rehabilitation to do and she wanted to combine this with something to thank the incredible NHS staff – the doctors, nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, porters, speech and language therapists, psychologists and many more people – who went above and beyond to save her life and to offer comfort and support during her time in hospital.
As her dad and uncle were enjoying a cycle ride through the North East together, she joined in from home using a special cycle and did some fundraising for the Newcastle Hospitals Charity and South Tees Hospitals Charity. In total, she raised over £1,600.
This has been a year like no other, for Rachel and for us all, and everyone has a reason to thank the people who have done so much to take care of us.
The NHS is celebrating its birthday on 5th July with the NHS Big Tea. It will be a national celebration of our amazing NHS staff – ordinary, yet extraordinary people who continue to go above and beyond for us and our loved ones – and you can host a Big Tea in person or virtually, with your community or at work.
Rachel adds: “Working for the NHS has always been an honour for me and celebrating its birthday on 5th July is something I’ve done for years.
“It’s now 15 months on from my initial hospital admission and I know I still have a long way to go before I can return to work. Learning to stand and walk again is the next challenge for me and knowing the hard work and compassion staff put in to get me this far motivates me and spurs me on.
“I have so much to thank the NHS and its workforce for and the NHS Big Tea a fantastic way to celebrate and support this amazing institution.”
To celebrate the NHS Big Tea and raise money for Newcastle Hospitals Charity, sign up here