A powerful photo shows a mum and daughter standing face-to-face on Christmas Day as they treated critically ill coronavirus patients.
The image of Royal Stoke University Hospital critical care unit medic Hollie Hawthorne and her mum, nursing assistant Clare Barker – both in full PPE – has gone viral.
Health workers across the UK have given up home time with their families during the festive period to continue the battle against Covid-19, with the snap helping to epitomise their sacrifice.
Clare was doing a 12-hour shift on the front line on December 25 but was able to spend her break with Hollie, also on duty that day, reports StokeonTrentLive.
The black-and-white image was taken by staff nurse and keen photographer Steve Ryles and shows the pair touching masks as they cradle each other’s arms.
Hollie, from Trentham, North Staffordshire, said: “I shared it with a Covid group on Facebook and it got 13,000 likes overnight. I was gobsmacked.”
The 34-year-old nursing assistant got to spend Christmas morning with her three children before starting her late shift at hospital.
“With the Covid situation, it’s helped massively having my mum there with me,” she said.
“You come home and you speak to your family, but they don’t get it as much as she does. We are both going through the same thing.”
Safety rules meant she and Clare couldn’t swap Christmas presents at work. And while they spent a break together, it was a far cry from enjoying turkey with all the trimmings.
For patients, staff tried to bring some Christmas cheer by putting them in touch with relatives via Zoom calls.
The mum and daughter have spent the past five years working together at the unit, although Clare is based in the cardiothoracic ‘pod’ and Hollie is in general intensive care.
Clare, 56, from Hanford, near Trent Vale, said: “Our paths cross a lot at work. It’s not easy to work in intensive care and it can be very stressful, but we have the support of each other.
“The teams we work with are also amazing. We are all in it together. They were working at Christmas too. There are a lot of brave people.”
Clare has also seen life in hospital as a patient as she suffered a heart attack two years ago.
She was admitted again recently after developing kidney stones. Her shift on Christmas Day was her first day back at work.
She volunteered for it as she is single and wanted other staff with young families to have the day off.
Seeing so many people battling coronavirus has taken its toll on the pair.
“Certain things play on your mind, but you have to toughen up or else you wouldn’t be able to work in that environment. It can be very sad indeed,” said Clare.
“Covid has been quite shocking. Never in a million years did I expect anything like this.
“It’s also meant a different way of working. We are in full PPE all the time. It’s hot and it’s uncomfortable. At the end of a shift, it can feel quite draining.”
Both she and Hollie caught the virus themselves back in March.
But now vaccines are on being rolled out, it has lifted their spirits.
Clare said: “It gives you a bit of hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”