A Cardiologist, a Nurse, an Occupational Health Lead and a Community Nurse have been named as the official starters of this year’s Great North Run in recognition of the efforts of all NHS staff during the pandemic.
Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Mickey Jachuck, from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Senior Sister Jade Trewick of the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, Community Nurse Dorathy Oparaeche from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and Occupational Health Lead Deborah Southworth from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead will represent the heroic efforts of all health and care staff in the NHS’s fight against Covid-19 during the pandemic.
They are part of the event’s Great North Thank You Campaign, that will pay tribute to thirteen inspirational individuals through a large-scale visual installation along the course at this year’s Great North Run, with the support of proud partner HSBC.
Founder of the Great North Run, Sir Brendan Foster said, “This year, at our landmark 40th staging we’ll also be welcoming runners back to the start-line after one of the most challenging experiences in living memory.
“I think I speak for the whole country when I say the heroic efforts of the National Health Service are something we should all pay tribute to.
“Historically, our starters have been public figures who have achieved great things in their chosen fields, but this year, there is no-one who deserves that honour more than the staff of the NHS, who worked so hard to care for our communities under such difficult circumstances.”
Dr Mickey Jachuck, who will also be running the event, worked on Covid admission and inpatient wards, in addition to his day job as a Cardiologist. Mickey and his team provided 24/7 cover for patients admitted with Covid – many of whom had developed severe respiratory failure and were critically ill.
“During the pandemic, the sheer numbers of people presenting with symptoms of Covid and the demands on hospital services were immense, a large part of our work was just being on the shop floor, on the Covid wards, assessing patients and treating them.
“As always, NHS people came together and everyone supported each other to try and meet the demand. I think we all knew it would be a huge challenge, but it lasted much longer than anyone anticipated.”
Sister Jade Trewick, was key to the success of Ward 49, a respiratory support unit which provides both intensive care and step-down care for Covid positive patients. The ward was created in just 12 weeks to care for patients with more severe Covid infection.
At the busiest times during the pandemic and with the country in lockdown, Jade and her team were the only people who could provide any physical form of contact with patients – the hand to hold, the face-to-face chat albeit through the PPE.
“You want to do everything right – you often feel like you’re not doing enough and you always want to do more – but then you remind yourself that we’re only human and we can only do our best.
“Everyone has worked so hard and given so much. We’ve cried together and had moments of joy together when patients got better – as a team we’ve supported each other through thick and thin.”
As a Community Staff Nurse during the pandemic, Dorathy Oparaeche’s job was to look after patients in their own homes. She was taking care of some of the most vulnerable people in our region, including those with dementia, people living with chronic disease and people who were housebound.
“We had to triage calls before going out, which meant relying on the patient to tell you what’s going on. A lot of them got it right, but some couldn’t really explain. Going out to patients who were potentially positive was nerve wracking.
“Trying to reassure patients who were anxious was difficult when I was anxious myself, but you put on a brave face. Then you meet a patient who is isolated and needs help with shopping and supplies, so finding where to get that help became part of the job, I was even speaking to neighbours to see if they could help.
“I would watch the news every day and listen to people talk about deaths as numbers and I’d go into the toilet and cry. These were not numbers. They were relatives, friends, sisters, brothers, I found that really heart-breaking.”
At Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Deborah Southworth an Occupational Health Team Lead recognised frontline staff were under a huge amount of pressure. Deborah and her team began putting initiatives in motion to support staff through the hardest days of the pandemic and beyond.
“There was a team of us that decided staff needed somewhere to go, so we came up with the Sanctuary Rooms. They became a refuge where people could collect their thoughts and have a bit of me time during a hectic day on the wards.
“I was able to offer some comfort to those who couldn’t be with families. During the first lockdown a lot of staff had moved out, perhaps into a hotel, and that was hard for a lot of staff, not being with family and friends. We have our work family, and the QE is very good about making sure people are supported, but it’s not the same as being with your family.”
This year’s Great North Run will take place on Sunday 12 September 2021. The event is televised live on BBC Two between 08:30 – 09:30 before coverage moves over to BBC One until 13:30.