MRI posted 23 February, 2024

NHS worker gets national honour for covid ICU work

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An NHS worker from Wythenshawe was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of how he went ‘above and beyond’ during the covid pandemic. Simukai Mudzingwa, 49, was made a BEM in recognition of his work to help deliver “the highest level of care for the sickest of patients”.

The Ward Manager’s Assistant works on the North West Ventilation Unit at Wythenshawe Hospital, run by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which ordinarily cares for patients who have long term respiratory failure and are in need of breathing support. Simukai explained how that all changed during covid:

“Whilst I work on the North West Ventilation Unit, when the covid pandemic started our unit was transformed into an intensive care unit dedicated to caring for patients who were very sick with covid.

“Like everywhere in healthcare at the time, it was scary, a real step into the unknown. Particularly for us as we had completely changed what the unit and our jobs were, they were unprecedented times.

“It was also a very anxious experience being around people who were very poorly with covid, there was a lot of fear in the country at that time and I too was scared I may bring covid home to my wife and young children.

“Regardless, we all wanted to give our best and help everyone who was unwell. We changed the whole unit around and it was my job to get all the new ICU equipment in and find somewhere for all our usual equipment to live in the meantime. I was also the point of contact for the ICU senior staff who had a new environment and ways of doing things to adapt to.

“I don’t feel like I did anything special, I just came in and did all I could to give help to people in need and was one person in a big harmonious team.

“It was very intense emotionally, some days you would find after two weeks patients would be completely fine and walk out, but then there would be others who came in just as ill but would deteriorate and pass away.

“It would feel great when we’d helped someone become well again and discharge them back to enjoying their lives. Equally, it was very hard when patients passed away. It was completely new to us and a very difficult situation, we had to learn very quickly and you become much more conscious of taking care of your own health.”

On being given his medal at The Monastery Manchester, Simukai said:

“It was wonderful, to me I was just getting my work done and giving it my all, but I feel proud that my colleagues wanted to put me forward for such an award. I owe a thank you Katy Wilman, Debbie Freeman and Professor Andrew Bentley for nominating me and everyone in my wonderful team – I won’t forget the experience we shared.

“You have dreams and aspirations in life, but as a normal everyday person you don’t expect these kinds of things to happen. I’ve framed the medal and displayed it at home as something to be proud of and to motivate me to do more.”