A Royal Derby Hospital nurse has expressed her pride in her UHDB family after they joined her in sharing their personal stories of working through the first wave of Covid-19 for a book about the pandemic.

‘The Last Hug’ is a powerful collection of 30 UHDB colleagues’ differing experiences of the first few months of Covid-19 – with some staff having to be redeployed to new areas, some having to shield at home and all of them having to handle huge changes.

Author Maggie Kirby is among those to share her thoughts and feelings in the book, with the staff nurse making the decision to start collecting the stories of some of her colleagues in RDH’s Theatre Recovery team after seeing first-hand how the pandemic had affected them.

While Maggie remained in a drastically-changed Recovery, many other colleagues were redeployed into the department or onto other areas like Intensive Care (ICU) to manage a rise in Covid-19 patients during the first-wave from March 2020, with the book detailing some of these experiences.

“When Covid first struck, everybody was uncertain, unsure and terrified, as I was myself, and a few months down the line when everyone came back to the department, I saw a look of emptiness in a lot of their eyes, as if they were lost somehow,” said Maggie.

“So, we were sat down one day and we were talking about some of our experiences, so I said ‘why don’t we put it down on paper and I’ll publish a book?’ Not everyone could do it, as it was very painful for a lot of people to retell stories, but it seems to have helped and has brought everybody’s emotions together.”

Maggie has worked at UHDB for 28 years and for the NHS for 46 years but experienced some massive changes at the start of the pandemic, as the Recovery department was completely transformed, with non-Covid patients on ventilators being moved there from ICU.

In the book, Maggie admitted that at first the change was so scary that she “didn’t want to be a nurse anymore” and she found that a number of her colleagues felt like this too.

She added: “These guys are like my family, so typing up their experiences was difficult, but reading it back made me feel that we were all in it together and could do anything. I love my colleagues, they’re not just my colleagues; they’re my mates, my family.”

Nurse Nicole Wallis is the first colleague to be featured in the book, with her poem detailing her experience of being redeployed from Recovery to the ICU at RDH for four months.

She said: “It was nerve-racking going onto ICU, as I’d never actually worked on there before, but we got told one day that we were going and that was it, it was all very quick. We were looking after the sickest patients and it was straight into the unknown. It was just horrible but working through all of this has made me feel more confident and very proud to work for the NHS as an organisation.”

Kam Gibbons also worked in ICU this January, but her account in the book focused on how the first wave had affected her, with the Healthcare Assistant (HCA) working in Recovery shortly after contracting Covid-19 herself.

She said: “I didn’t want to believe it was Covid, but in back of my mind, I knew it was. I went back into work three weeks later but when I came in, everything had changed so much and it wasn’t the Recovery or people that I knew. It has been really challenging but I feel really proud and I think my family are too, which is really nice.”

Maggie added: “I hope that this book provides people with an understanding of what we’ve all been through and how real it has all been. Hopefully, when people read it, more will get an understanding of how important our job is and that it’s not simple.

“I just hope that it gives an understanding to people of what we’ve given and what we’ve sacrificed. It’s not my book, it’s our book; it’s our stories. It’s our family’s book.”

All of the proceeds from ‘The Last Hug’ will be split between Maggie’s chosen charities Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and the Derby and Burton Hospitals Charity.

Tim Diggle, Charity Operations Director at Derby and Burton Hospitals Charity, said: “It is a real honour to help dedicated nurses like Maggie bring their stories to the world and highlight just how hard it has been for the NHS throughout Covid-19. We would like to thank Maggie for fundraising for us. The money raised will go a long way in helping to support the hospital and its staff.”

Copies of the book can be purchased for £10 from the Charity Hub at the main entrance of Royal Derby Hospital or a digital download can be purchased below: