Student nurse features in Bolton exhibition to COVID heroes

A new exhibition at Bolton Museum will pay tribute to amazing individuals who have supported Bolton communities during the pandemic, including a student nurse from one of our COVID wards at Royal Bolton Hospital. 

“Caring Bolton: The Community Response to Covid-19” will be opened by the Mayor of Bolton, Linda Thomas on Saturday 7 August. The exhibition commemorates the different ways that local communities cared for one another during the pandemic.

Third year student nurse, Rebecca Hawthornthwaite opted to work on a COVID-19 ward at the height of the pandemic. Rebecca was a student nurse in training before the pandemic, volunteering to move into a full time role before she ordinarily would have, knowing that she was needed on the frontline. Rebecca is a much loved member of the team on the COVID ward she supports, caring for incredibly poorly people who are suffering from the effects of COVID, something she cannot have anticipated when she began her training.

Rebecca also won a Bolton News Lockdown Heroes Award earlier this year for her efforts.

Rebecca said:

“I remember the first day I worked on a COVID ward.

“The first thing was the PPE, full gown, apron, mask and eye shield.

“Completing 11-hour days in this was exhausting.

“The hardest thing for me was the amount of people who were extremely unwell.

“As soon as you had helped one person someone else needed help. It was so upsetting to see people on high amounts of oxygen and fighting for breath.

“For me, I wasn’t just a nurse caring for my patients, but I became their main contact with the outside world.

“Working at Bolton hospital throughout the pandemic has showed how amazing staff are.

“Everyone pulled together and did what they needed to do.”

In early 2021 the museum commissioned Westhoughton photographer Marge Bradshaw to take a series of photographic portraits of individuals who played an important role in Bolton’s community response to Covid-19. Her portraits are being shown for the first time in the exhibition. 

The other subjects include:

· Chris Fallows, Greengrocer, The Glass Onion Westhoughton, who worked tirelessly to ensure that his customers got their deliveries of essential groceries.  

· Hazel Deighan, Senior Care Assistant, Spennymoor Care Home, who worked 10 days non-stop, caring for the residents and speaking to worried families, while most of her colleagues were in self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. 

· Domina Achioyamen, CEO Precious Gems, created a WhatsApp group to ensure that isolated members could chat with each other. She and her team also delivered jigsaw puzzles and embroidery material to people’s doors. They ran Tai Chi and chair-based exercises twice a week on Zoom to keep members active. 


· Yvonne Heywood, Assistant Head, Ladywood School. While continuing to teach their most vulnerable students and the children of keyworkers in the classroom, Yvonne and her colleagues developed a range of online sessions including a special “Stay at Home Superhero project”. They provided resource packs and toys and bikes via doorstep drop offs.


· Nik Gandhi, Deputy Headteacher at Eagley Junior School and Sheetal Gandhi, Pharmacist. Nik and the team at Eagley Junior quickly adapted to the circumstances of the various lockdowns, providing a balanced education to the children of key workers and pupils learning remotely at home.
During the pandemic and whilst heavily pregnant, his wife Sheetal continued her role as a pharmacy manager, working all hours to ensure they met the increasing demand.
She worked right up to the point when their baby daughter Neya was ready to make an appearance.



The exhibition also offers the opportunity to remember all those who have passed away, have suffered, and are still suffering from coronavirus.


 A new, meditative film, mixing images of the natural world with messages from the Mayor of Bolton and faith leaders, will invite visitors to reflect on the losses of the past 18 months whilst also looking forward in hope.


 Finally, a memory wall section of the exhibition will give visitors the chance to add their own comments and reflections on this most challenging of periods. 


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