| 12.2°C Belfast

Here's to the heroes: Our special Spirit of NI awards to honour stars of Covid battle


There is no end to the exceptional people who have gone above and beyond for their community during the Covid crisis.

Entries continue to flood in for our Spirit of Northern Ireland Covid-19 Heroes awards and this week we are delighted to put the spotlight on three more finalists who have fulfilled vital roles during the pandemic.

Dr Martin Duffy

Close

Dr Martin Duffy Consultant Anaesthia ICU with his Spirit of Northern Ireland COVID heroes award. Picture: Colm O'Reilly

Dr Martin Duffy Consultant Anaesthia ICU with his Spirit of Northern Ireland COVID heroes award. Picture: Colm O'Reilly

Dr Martin Duffy Consultant Anaesthia ICU with his Spirit of Northern Ireland COVID heroes award. Picture: Colm O'Reilly


Dr Duffy is a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care in the Mater Hospital in Belfast who was transferred early on in the pandemic to work with his team in the new Nightingale hospital.

It has been a challenging and emotive time for this experienced medic, with long hours spent away from his young family.

His wife Claire is also a consultant in the Northern Trust and the couple, who live in Lisburn, have two girls, Emma (13) and Sarah (10).

Dr Duffy says: "When the Mater Hospital was designated as the Covid centre for Belfast, we felt apprehensive and anxious about the impact of this devastating disease. Within the hospital I encountered fantastic work from medical, nursing and other health professionals addressing the needs of patients, while looking out for each other.

"It has been a time of profound pressure on our systems and the combined efforts of our colleagues have been fantastic.

"The focus of my work has been intensive care during Covid where it is our privilege to care for those patients who represent the most sick in the hospital.

"Within ICU we would consider all of our patients as the most seriously impacted. In general the group of patients with Covid were very seriously ill and required more intense therapy for a longer time compared to our usual experience.

"It was not unusual for patients to require organ support for several weeks. We are still learning about this disease and the consequences for patients who have recovered. Our thoughts remain with the families of those who succumbed to Covid-19 despite the ongoing efforts of our healthcare colleagues locally and globally."

Haydn Hassard

Close

Spirit of Northern Ireland winner with Haydn Hassard and Ulster Bank Personal Banking Mandy Cudlip at Springhill Retail Park, Bangor Branch.

Spirit of Northern Ireland winner with Haydn Hassard and Ulster Bank Personal Banking Mandy Cudlip at Springhill Retail Park, Bangor Branch.

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Spirit of Northern Ireland winner with Haydn Hassard and Ulster Bank Personal Banking Mandy Cudlip at Springhill Retail Park, Bangor Branch.


Haydn was nominated by his neighbours in Seahaven Residential Park in Groomsport, Co Down.

The 65-year-old stepped up to the mark at the first sign of the pandemic, setting up a team of volunteers so that everyone in the community had a point of contact for shopping and other needs.

As the average age of this retirement community is 75, the majority of residents have had to self-isolate.

Haydn and his residents' committee have not only delivered food parcels but set up online groups to keep community spirit alive. He also contacted local shops and arranged for food deliveries, and has spent two hours each day walking around the park ensuring everyone has what they need.

Modest about his role, he says: "It really was a team effort. I knew a lot of the people who live here would be vulnerable and would need support, and everyone stepped up to the plate to help.

"One of the biggest things was communication and we set up a WhatsApp group which has 170 people in it and it soon developed into them sharing yarns and jokes, and it proved a real lifeline."

After a very successful social distancing VE Day celebration with music generously supplied by Third Source in Belfast, Haydn is now hoping to have the company back for a "coming out of lockdown party".

And true to his nature, he aims to use his £150 shopping vouchers received for being one of our award heroes to buy food for the celebration.

Aideen Hughes

Close

Aideen Hughes pictured with Mark Linton, branch manager of Ulster Bank at Culmore Road in Derry. Picture by Trevor McBride

Aideen Hughes pictured with Mark Linton, branch manager of Ulster Bank at Culmore Road in Derry. Picture by Trevor McBride

Aideen Hughes pictured with Mark Linton, branch manager of Ulster Bank at Culmore Road in Derry. Picture by Trevor McBride


Limavady Grammar School music teacher Aideen (51) sprung into action during lockdown to help those working in vital services.

After raising over £3,000 to buy fabric, she coordinated over 20 volunteers to make and distribute masks, face visors, scrubs and scrub bags.

In total the team provided over 300 sets of scrubs, more than 2,000 masks and 40 face visors with cartoons for staff working in the local children's ward.

She says: "I would send out baby blankets and clothes to Greece for refugees and have a Facebook group who help make the blankets. I quickly turned it into a scrub and mask group.

"People have been really great volunteering to help and thankfully things have eased now and there are not as many requests.

"To be able to do something you know will make a difference is not just practical and helpful but good for your own wellbeing."

Belfast Telegraph