NHS staff who were on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19 will be at the heart of a special service of commemoration and thanksgiving to be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Monday, the anniversary of the health service’s foundation.
Martin Keeney who heads up the portering service s at The Royal Preston Hospital will be amongst the guests and will represent the Trust at the service.
Dr Ashley Price, a member of the team who treated the very first patients with the virus in this country, and May Parsons, who administered the first vaccine outside of a trial, will take part in the socially distanced service.
Led by the Very Reverend Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s and the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, it will recognise the dedication and commitment of all those who have played their part in combating coronavirus across the NHS, care sector and beyond.
Martin started as a porter here some 14 years ago. A building that was to shape his life as indeed he met his future wife at the Hospital.
Married with 4 children, they both worked throughout the Pandemic and are looking forward to a weekend away, having arranged childcare facilities.
A vascular specialist, Martins wife was, like many redeployed during the Pandemic.
“She worked in the ICU for a time” says Martin” and it was hard. It’s been tough for everyone at the hospital but we have got through the worst and we go forward stronger, maybe battered, but more resilient and resolute in the desire to care for our patients and colleagues
I reckon we have emerged stronger, our department certainly has. We work more collaboratively than ever now
Departments now ask us for advice and they give us their opinion on our proposed changes. That is great and makes the job so much easier you know.
I have a passion for this place” says Martin pausing to have a sip of coffee. I will defend it to the hilt you know, as I told Boris. That Boris is of course the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Martin was nominated to attend a drinks reception at No 10 to thank NHS staff for their efforts during the ongoing pandemic.
To him it was an opportunity to put the World to rights. “Oh yes I had 20 minutes with him and helped him sort out a few matters of state. I gave Boris my views on the health service and the G7 including the absence there of a certain Donald”
But as Boris said when I asked him about President Macron, ‘Let’s leave it there shall we’”… He laughs and is eager to change the subject.
Confidentiality is key in his job and that obviously extends to the meeting where I understand plenty of wine was consumed.
What was it like going through the black door where heads of state and the great and the good have passed throughout the ages?
“No 10 is a huge building you know and to see the staircase with all the pictures of the prime ministers is incredible”
The portering I ask any thoughts? Well Martin says quickly,” I did notice a few things that I would do differently. My team is the best, and no one comes close”
What about the food I wonder as he smiles at his last comment…”well let’s just say it was not a patch on Charters.
Have you tasted the new pizzas by the way? Done in 90 seconds you know. I am collecting mine at 1pm”
“Attending St Pauls will be a different experience because it is a service of reflection and to give thanks” says Martin, suddenly very serious.
“To be in that place where the Nation has commemorated so many World events is astonishing. To be sat with the likes of Sarah Gilbert and Sir Peter Hornby is humbling you know”
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert is Professorship of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, who designed the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine and Professor Sir Peter Horby, who helped run the NHS trial that found the first effective treatment for COVID-19, dexamethasone.
“We all have lost someone, a friend, colleague, maybe a relative. It will be an emotional time. As porters we transport the deceased as well as the living around the hospital. It’s what we do; it is part of the job.
Everyone is affected when someone passes away. We are all one big team and everyone in this hospital is a colleague, and many are friends. So yes, we all hurt together.
We have our little ways of showing respect. Say a prayer, have a moment of quiet time”
Suddenly Martin looks at his watch and somewhat relieved, he jumps up.
“Pizza time” he says as we both head for the door
I leave him at Charters, receiving a freshly baked pizza and looking like a kid in a sweetshop.
I wish him well and looking longingly at the pizza, head for the door.
The lasting impression I have of Martin, is one of dedication, teamwork and as he says his passion for this place.