Today, the Daily Mail proudly launches our 2017 Health Hero Awards to honour the men and women in the NHS who go the extra mile for their patients.
Too often we hear bad stories about healthcare, yet so many more positive things are done every day in the NHS by countless unsung heroes — doctors, nurses, care assistants, porters receptionists, volunteers — whose compassion and skill make a real difference.
Over the next four weeks, we want you to nominate the health workers you believe deserve recognition. Five finalists will be honoured with an all-expenses-paid trip to London to receive their awards from the Prime Minister. The winner will also receive a £5,000 holiday.
Here, we tell one nominee’s truly inspiring story . . .
Stephen and Cara Lockwood are a deeply private couple; married just over a year, they are so content in each other’s company that they rarely go out.
‘We don’t have a complicated social circle. We’re best friends who love each other very much and we love hanging out together,’ says Steve, an HGV driver.
The couple live in Oxfordshire and met ten years ago at work.
Terror: The world-famous image of Stephen Lockwood being nursed by partner Cara after the Westminster Bridge attack by 52-year-old jihadist Khalid Masood
‘I was a chef, Cara was front-of-house, and we just clicked,’ says Steve. ‘We love fine dining. It’s our little treat once a year to go to a Michelin-starred restaurant, so we’d saved hard and for my 40th birthday on March 22, we booked into the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, where Marcus Wareing is head chef. It was going to be a really special night.’
Cara, 29, who now works in the finance department at the University of Oxford, had not wanted to use the Underground because she was worried about terrorism, so after dropping their bags at the hotel in Knightsbridge, they got a taxi to the London Aquarium. They scuba-dived with sharks — Steve’s birthday treat.
Just before 2.40pm they made their way up the steps onto Westminster Bridge to hail another taxi. They were walking on the south side of the bridge, towards the Houses of Parliament, when 52-year-old Khalid Masood launched his terror attack.
He ploughed a hired 4×4 car into pedestrians at 76mph, injuring 50 people. Four bridge victims died, while a fifth, policeman Keith Palmer, was fatally stabbed before Masood was shot and killed.
Despite many requests from newspapers, this is the first time Steve has spoken publicly about what happened. Still deeply traumatised, he has not even talked in detail to Cara about that day because, more than seven months on, it remains too painful.
But he is determined now to champion the NHS heroes who looked after him, particularly trauma specialist and plastic surgeon Shehan Hettiaratchy, who, he says, ‘not only saved my life but rebuilt it, and continues to look after both Cara and I to this day’.
Life-saving: Stephen Lockwood has made an impressive recovery (L) thanks to the knowledge and skill of his surgeon, Shehan Hettiaratchy (R)
Steve recalls little of the moment the car hit him. ‘I remember a loud bang and pain running up the back of my kneecaps to my lower back, that’s about it,’ he says. The impact sent Steve flying: he landed 20 metres down the road, injuring the right side of his upper body and left of his lower body.
His left leg was shattered below the knee, both bones broken and the soft tissue ripped away down to the bone. He also had a fracture to his eye socket, a broken and splintered collar bone, five broken ribs, and his lower back was broken in two places. ‘I tried to get up, but obviously I couldn’t,’ he says. ‘And that upset me because I thought: “Broken leg, I can’t work.” Then suddenly Cara was by my side.’ Pictures of Cara emerged, tenderly bending over Steve, cradling his head and waiting for paramedics, but Steve recalls nothing after this point.
‘My next conscious moment was lying on a hospital trolley thinking: “The Berkeley Hotel is rubbish . . .” I didn’t lose consciousness, but I must have been in such deep shock, my brain has wiped everything in between.’
Steve was taken by ambulance to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. He remembers first thinking the incident had been his fault. ‘I thought I might have stepped out into the road. Then for some reason I asked a doctor: “Was it terrorism?” And he said “yes”. And that was too big, too frightening for me to process. There was a lot of emotion, a lot of tears.
He’s an extraordinary man with an incredible skill. He’d probably say he’s just doing his job, but we felt he did far more.
‘I couldn’t really hold it together. I just couldn’t comprehend how anyone could feel such hatred to other human beings.’
Mr Hettiaratchy, affectionately known as ‘Mr H’, has been dubbed ‘the magician’ for his extreme plastic surgery skills. But for Steve, it was the love and passion and pride he took in ‘making his patients whole again in body and mind’ which really stood out. ‘He’s an extraordinary man with an incredible skill,’ says Steve. ‘He’d probably say he’s just doing his job, but we felt he did far more.’
On that first day, Mr Hettiaratchy operated on Steve’s left leg, inserting metal rods to stabilise it. The following day he wired his broken ribs. On the third day, he began an intricate six-hour hour operation to reconstruct Steve’s badly damaged left leg, taking skin and tissue from his right thigh to repair the hole in his left calf.
‘Mr H talked me through the whole operation in detail, the next day he came back and repeated it, then on the third day he asked me to describe it to him, so he knew I understood what was going to happen and the end goal.’
‘Talking builds the connection between doctor and patient and an understanding of what’s likely to happen next,’ says Mr Hettiaratchy. ‘That’s the foundation of recovery.’
NURSE WHO WAS A SALVATION FOR ANGELA RIPPON’S MOTHER
Beloved: Angela Rippon and her mother
Angela Rippon’s Health Hero is Nellie Minima, a psychiatric nurse with Devon Partnership NHS Trust, now retired, who cared for her mother Edna (pictured) before her death in 2009. Angela says:
When Mummy was diagnosed with dementia 13 years ago, I faced a wave of emotions — guilt, fear and confusion, but Nellie was our lifesaver. While it was a relief to have a diagnosis, it was terribly sad and it left me with a lot of questions about what to do next and what was best for her.
I turned to the Alzheimer’s Society for help and Nellie was assigned to Mummy. She went above and beyond anything I could have imagined. She was a bright bundle of energy, but also very calm and reassuring. I wanted to keep Mummy at home for as long as possible and Nellie helped make that happen.
She visited regularly throughout the week, so she didn’t feel isolated and lonely and she’d always ring me afterwards with an update. I didn’t feel Mummy was just a number to Nellie.
She organised for her to be collected and taken to a local day centre with a memory clinic, and for carers on the days she wasn’t there. She knew everything that was available and made it all appear seamless at a time when having to juggle different contacts and options can be overwhelming. Nellie was always at the other end of the line to talk to me and put my mind at ease about the guilt I was feeling.
Nominated: Angela Rippon’s Health Hero is Nellie Minima, a psychiatric nurse with Devon Partnership NHS Trust
It was Nellie who broke it to me that it was time for Mummy to go into a home. That was absolutely heartbreaking, but I knew she had her best interests at heart and she helped me find the best place.
Nellie continued to visit, getting Mummy a special bed to keep her from falling and prevent the bed sores that people with dementia often get. She was there for 18 months before she died.
From Mummy’s diagnosis to her death, Nellie made a difficult situation bearable, and I couldn’t have got through it without her.
Interview by SARAH EWING
Steve describes the compassion of the nursing staff as ‘unbelievable’. ‘There were times I couldn’t stop crying and they’d come and have little chats. At other times they knew to leave me alone. Their sensitivity and care blew me away.’
Steve also drew huge comfort from the support of his highly skilled surgeon. ‘Mr H would come and chat to me every day, just to see how I was feeling.’
Even now when Steve returns for appointments in other departments, Mr Hettiaratchy will ‘pop in to see how we’re getting on — he will regularly email to see when Cara and I are due in for our next check up so he can say hello’.
Shehan Hettiaratchy, the son of psychiatrists, was brought up with a sense of public service, but it was watching the TV show M*A*S*H as a child which made him want to combine military service with trauma medicine.
He joined the Army in his gap year, then spent five years in the reserves while studying medicine at Oxford before joining the Royal Army Medical Corps in 2003. He completed two tours of Afghanistan — ‘a professional high point,’ he says. ‘You’re working with the highest performing medical team that has ever existed. I never want to see those kinds of injuries again, but to be part of that team was a real privilege.’
His training and background is in plastic surgery: he specialises in elective hand and limb reconstruction. ‘But I spend over 50 per cent of my time doing trauma work, which I am passionate about as it involves such intense teamwork across different disciplines,’ he says. ‘Doing things with a gang of friends who are highly bonded is the best possible way to work, because it’s supportive.’
His close relationship with patients sounds a long way from the traditional image of surgeons. ‘Hierarchies don’t work,’ he says. ‘I want to get my patients back to where they were before they were injured. The goal is not just fixing an arm and a leg, it’s getting people back in their professional and social environment, functioning normally as soon as possible.’
‘The biggest challenge with trauma is that people go from feeling perfectly well to being horrifically injured in a matter of seconds: it affects them in every possible way. To get them back to where they were before it happened is a huge challenge.’ He believes empathy is vital — his first response as Steve was wheeled in was emotional, he says. ‘Your heart goes out to anyone who’s been through this kind of trauma. They’re often crying and shaking and disorientated. You know they’re broken by what has happened.
‘Doctors shouldn’t be afraid of having emotional connections with their patients,’ he adds. ‘If you don’t empathise, you can’t appreciate the challenges that patient faces, you can’t address them and you can’t make that person better. We see people until they don’t need us — I have just seen an 18-year-old who I first looked after aged 12. It can often be a lifelong relationship.’
Steve admits a particular low point was when the couple finally got home to Oxford. ‘We suddenly felt very lonely because, having been the centre of attention, suddenly there was no one,’ says Steve. ‘Those first few weeks were very, very tough. But even though we felt lonely, we were never left alone. We saw Mr H every week for check-ups and he was constantly positive and enthusiastic, always cheering us both on.’
The last time Steve saw Mr Hettiaratchy, he explained he was worried about Cara.
‘She’s been badly affected by what she saw and built a wall to protect herself,’ he says. ‘Mr H understood that it wasn’t just me who went through trauma that day and he’s organising some counselling for her.’
‘We still have low days,’ adds Steve. ‘Days full of sadness when we are both teary.’
The news of terror attacks at London Bridge, in Manchester and Barcelona was particularly hard. ‘We turn the TV off, lock the doors and cuddle up together. I don’t think we’ll ever be over it, but with Mr H’s help we’ll learn to manage it.’
While Steve nominated Mr Hettiaratchy for a heroes award for his extraordinary technical skill and unswerving dedication to his patients, the surgeon is determined to deflect the honours away from himself.
‘When a terror attack happens, there’s a sense of surprise that the NHS copes, but this is what we do on a day-to-day basis. The emotional overlay of a terror attack obviously changes things, but the reality is that the NHS copes with situations like this day in and day out and all our patients are valued and looked after in the same way.’
When Mr Hettiaratchy, a father of four married to an infectious diseases doctor, is asked who his own hero is, he names World War I doctor Noel Chavasse, who risked his life to care for wounded soldiers under heavy fire. He earned the Victoria Cross twice, the only individual to do so, eventually dying in the field. ‘I think few of us can measure up to someone like Noel Chavasse.’
Steve Lockwood described a sense of being loved by Mr Hettiaratchy and his team. Is that description excessive? Mr Hettiaratchy thinks not. ‘A patient’s life — and future — is often in our hands; there has to be a loving, caring connection,’ he says. ‘For me, the real joy in my job is seeing a scared, terribly damaged individual who has been brought in by ambulance crew come back from the brink because of our physical and emotional care.
‘The best thing of all is when they stop coming to see me in outpatients because they don’t need me any more. It’s bittersweet because you’ve formed such a strong bond, but that’s the way it should be. It means I’ve done my job right.’
Nominate your health hero
The Daily Mail proudly presents our 2017 Health Hero Awards to honour the men and women in the NHS who work tirelessly for their patients, going the extra mile. We know there are countless such heroes – doctors, nurses, care assistants or hospital porters – and we’d like YOU to help to identify them. It could be a healthcare assistant who takes time to comfort a distressed patient in the lonely hours of the night. Or a GP who won’t leave a stone unturned to provide the best treatment. It might be the hospital volunteer whose arrival lifts the mood on a ward. Or the devoted surgeon, nurse, receptionist or ambulance driver for whom no effort is too great.
To enter, fill in this form and tell us in no more than 400 words – using the box provided – why you think your candidate should win. The closing date is midnight on Sunday 4th December 2017. The editor’s decision is final.
There will be a total of five finalists including the winner. Each finalist will receive a paid-for one-night stay in a five-star London hotel, selected by the organisers, and travel to and from London, for them and one guest. The finalists will receive their award from The Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street (subject to security clearance and the Prime Minister’s availability). The prize for the Health Hero of the Year is a voucher for a luxury break up to the value of £5,000 courtesy of leading villa specialists Oliver’s Travels (oliverstravels.com). This is subject to Oliver’s Travels voucher terms. You must obtain consent of your Health hero to submit the entry before entering and submitting the details below. Usual Promotion Rules apply.