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Covid-19 ICU staff raise thousands for food bank charity

By David Porter

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Frontline medics who are caring for NHS Grampian’s sickest Covid-19 patients, are raising thousands of pounds for a local food bank by covering 3654km in their breaks - the distance from their ward to the North Pole.

ICU nurses Claire McAvoy and Rachel Ironside
ICU nurses Claire McAvoy and Rachel Ironside

Intensive care nurses Rachael Ironside and Claire McAvoy launched the fundraiser earlier this month and have already receive £4500 in donations. The money will be given to Instant Neighbour as part of “an effort to give back to the local community”.

Claire said: “It was just after Christmas and New Year, hospital admissions were rising again and morale was a little bit low and we wanted to give everyone something else to think about.

“The challenge is for the whole of critical care staff, and everyone has got involved.

"We are travelling the distance from Aberdeen to the North Pole. You can either walk, run or cycle and everyone is recording it on Strava.

Rachael added: “We’ve done it to help people locally.

"During the first lockdown we got so much meals and other things given to us, so we really wanted to give back, so we thought ‘we’ll raise the money for a wee local charity’ and we chose Instant Neighbour.

"They were so pleased.

"They came back to us and were so lovely and excited – their response brought a tear to my eye.

“The support we received, from the general public, last year gave everyone a massive boost.

"It was unbelievable and overwhelming.

"We were getting lots of donations throughout the year – places that were shut to the public were going and making us all this food and we were all incredibly grateful.

“This time, we wanted to help those struggling because of Covid-19.

"The last year has been incredible tough in the hospital and in the ICU, but in other ways we’ve been lucky.

"We are still coming to work and still seeing our friends and colleagues at work. Other people are far more isolated, have lost their jobs and some are struggling to get by - we wanted to pay the kindness forward to those people.”

Claire said: “Our target was £1000 so we are totally chuffed.

"Everyone has been amazing and got into it.

"It’s created a great buzz.

"People on their nightshifts have been making sure to get out and go a walk round the hospital and others have been going on runs and doing 5km in their breaks.

"People have been really hitting it hard.

“We’ve managed to get a huge distance already, so I think we’ll absolutely smash it and might even get there and back – it’d be nice to get home again.

Just 46 days in, 2021 has already proven one of the toughest staff in the hospital’s intensive care unit have faced and the challenge has given them a welcome break from focusing on the virus.

At the height of the second wave as the number of patients in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary rose to more than 130 the ICU had to be expanded to four wards.

Rachael said: “It’s been quite tough mentally for a lot of staff.

"This gets people to go outside and get a change of scene, it helps with mental health.

“The second wave has been much worse.

"The first wave was ‘let’s all pull together, let’s tackle Covid’.

"Then we discharged the last person and there was a thought of ‘that’s it, we did it, it’s over, what a ride that was’.

"Then it came back worse and you realised that it was going to be like this for a long time.”

In total in ARI’s ICU there is more than 250 staff to run the ICU, including those running the national ECMO service.

To donate visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/aricriticalcarefundraiser

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