Hailing the superheroes of Cheshire

Silk Elephant, #GiftOfAHeart

Silk Elephant, #GiftOfAHeart - Credit: n/a

From the cancer scientist returning to the NHS frontline to the martial arts expert spreading cheer dressed as Spider-Man, we applaud the inspiring people keeping us safe, well and happy

Dr Marc Lyons

Dr Marc Lyons - Credit: n/a

The Doctor

Dr Marc Lyons

East Cheshire NHS Trust

One of our true frontline heroes, Dr Marc Lyons works in theatres, critical care and maternity at Macclesfield Hospital. The 36-year-old, a consultant in anaesthesia and clinical lead for intensive care medicine, who, along with many of his colleagues has already contracted and recovered from the virus, is working with his team around the clock to help people in desperate need.

The biggest challenge, Marc says, has been providing a safe environment and conditions to deliver specialist care. Despite the enormous pressure he and his colleagues are facing every day, it has been their determination and unflappable selflessness in putting patients first that has carried him through.

“We have doubled the footprint on the Intensive Care Unit and the hospital has undergone an enormous transformation to function effectively during these unprecedented times, says Marc. “Being able to provide frontline care during this time is an honour but undeniably challenging.

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“The level of personal protective equipment needed means simple things such as communication, documentation and interaction with specialities outside of the ICU bubble are substantially more difficult.

“It’s the small wins that keep us going. The early identification of patients at risk, the sense of achievement and relief when patients show signs of improvement, and ultimately (and most significantly) the moments patients share with family by video message while on the path to recovery. The human side of patient care could easily be lost with the enforced removal of hospital visitation, but we understand just how important communication with family is, and the horrible situation patients and family find themselves in.

“I am also buoyed by, and immensely proud of the way colleagues have rallied to meet the many challenges posed by this crisis. They are continually going the extra mile. It is a genuine honour to serve my community in this role. I, like many in the hospital, want to mitigate the impact Covid-19 has on our local population. I accepted the inevitability of infection and the risk to myself and (by extension) my family. This did at least allow me to function free of anxiety and with a clear mind to apply to the task at hand.

Victoria Foy with her family

Victoria Foy with her family - Credit: n/a

“There is an immense amount of suffering right now; be it patients, families, loved ones and even staff. It does take its toll, but I can guarantee the dedication and pride shown by staff means our hospital will continue to rise to the various challenges posed. Keep safe.”

The Cancer Scientist

Victoria Foy

Victoria Foy normally works on ground-breaking lung cancer research, trying to root out better treatments for patients. But now the mother-of-two, a PhD student at Cancer Research UK’s Manchester Institute at the University of Manchester and based at Alderley Park, has returned to the NHS frontline working full-time at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, treating patients diagnosed with both cancer and Covid-19.

“I had a feeling I should be doing something to support the national effort on the NHS frontline. I am registered to practice as a medical doctor, so I felt determined to play my part in supporting vulnerable patients,” says Victoria.

“In my first week, I was asked to work on a ward with Covid-19 cancer patients. It was a bit daunting at first as I was given full protective equipment to wear. But the ward feels very calm and under control – and I feel I’m able to contribute and make a real difference.”

The Christie does not have an emergency department, but the specialist cancer centre is providing care for a small number of cancer patients whose illness and treatment are complicated by Covid-19. As well as her work with these patients, the Lymm scientist is also caring for those having routine cancer treatment at The Christie for bone and tissue sarcoma – a rare form of cancer that normally affects younger people.

“It’s tough enough for patients to deal with treatment for cancer and all that entails,” says Victoria. “But to add an additional diagnosis of Covid-19 is particularly challenging. It’s a really difficult time for patients as visiting is significantly reduced at the hospital and family contact isn’t so readily available. But the teams at The Christie are doing a great job.

Zoe Holland, David Nichols and Paul Nichols

Zoe Holland, David Nichols and Paul Nichols - Credit: n/a

“I’m very proud to be part of the team providing direct patient care and making sure cancer patients continue to get the treatment they need. Many of these patients have young families of their own, and it’s really important to offer support and care for them at what can feel like a very daunting and isolating time.”

Victoria is due to continue working at the hospital for several months, with plans to resume her PhD studies once the Covid-19 pandemic has eased.

She said: “We mustn’t forget that researching cancer is such a critical part of improving long-term outcomes for patients. The sooner we can get back to the labs, the sooner we can start beating cancer again and saving even more lives.”

The Kindness Campaigner

Zoe Holland

When Zoe Holland founded a charity in memory of her dad, she could not have predicted the even greater significance it would take on because of coronavirus. She first launched Silk Elephant with brother Paul Nichols after their father, David, lost his battle with cancer in December.

The charity promotes and delivers simple acts of kindness to those facing challenging life difficulties such as bereavement, disability or serious illness, including mental health and more recently, coronavirus.

Since then, demand for her #GiftOfAHeart campaign, which distributes handmade hearts to individuals and families in difficulty, has skyrocketed and more than 2,500 hearts have been distributed via hospitals, care homes and funeral directors.

Clare Hayward

Clare Hayward - Credit: Beccy Lane PositiveImage Photogr

“During Dad’s 15-month cancer journey, we unexpectedly found it was often the simple acts of kindness of other people that helped us through the most difficult times,” says Zoe. “We were surrounded by love and shared love in the simplest of things – that’s what inspired Silk Elephant.

“Together, I truly believe we can change attitudes by promoting kindness and our supporters campaign relentlessly to create a more caring and selfless society. #GiftOfAHeart brings people together emotionally and at a time when we’re so distanced physically, this has never been more vital. We have the opportunity to make a real difference.”

Zoe is urging people to contribute by creating and sending their own handmade love-hearts, along with messages for grieving families. Pairs of hearts are being delivered to ICU and palliative care teams for families who are unable to see loved ones in hospital – one heart remains with the family and the other with the critically-ill or dying patient.

Individual hearts are sent to bereaved families and may be placed with their loved one in their coffin.

Hearts can be any colour, pattern or material and should be able to fit in the palm of a recipient’s hand. The heart should be dated and packaged in cling film or a sealed freezer bag and posted to The Old Coach House, 15 West Grove, Sale, M33 3AS. They will be left untouched for 72 hours, disinfected and packaged safely before being forwarded on to families.silkelephant.org.uk

The business leader

Clare Hayward

Chair of Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership

It was just a few days into lockdown that Clare Hayward took up post as chair of Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, an organisation providing vital support and advice to the business community – and at no time has the need for that support been greater.

“It’s so critical at the moment,” says Clare, also a founding director of the hugely successful Cirrus, a specialist in leadership, talent and engagement. “We need to make sure people are protecting their people and their resources, working with them to help find more finances and funding to help them through this current crisis.

“It’s also a time for me to work really hard to protect the people in my own business. But Cheshire has such a brilliantly strong, innovative and engaged business community, including some who are working to bring the pandemic to as quick an end as possible, and we are strong if we work together.”

Part of the support being offered is multi-million-pound grants to boost skills. To help prepare the way for Cheshire and Warrington’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, the Local Enterprise Partnership has invested £4.6 million in several digital projects, providing opportunities for tens of thousands of residents. A new and innovative technologies hub, community digital hubs in libraries, a cyber-security lab and an Inspiration Open To All Skills Lab are just four schemes that will provide new learning opportunities for more than 52,000 residents.

“We have to make sure we are ensuring our economy is fit for the future,” says Clare, who was awarded an MBE for her work in local economy growth last year and as chair of the LEP’s Employers Skills Board leads a £30 million transformative skills programme. “As we emerge from Covid-19, digital applications and skills will be key to helping the economy to bounce back.

“This current crisis has demonstrated the importance of our digital capabilities. Ensuring we have digital skills and equipment is critical to the success of our region going forward. We need to ensure we are resilient, prepared for the recovery and a great success once the virus is beaten.”

Work is also being done to support young people during the lockdown period. The Pledge Learn Live @ 11 project will help 11 to 18-year-olds access career support and with employers talking about careers in their industry, as well as providing advice on how to develop the skills that employers are looking for during lockdown.

“In these challenging times, employers are still very keen to reach out to young people – to inspire them about new technologies and job opportunities and support them on their journey to starting a career,” says Clare.

“We are bringing the private and public sectors together to focus relentlessly on what our region needs today and tomorrow. We have one of the most successful economies in the country.

“We need to ensure we continue to work together to drive innovation, retain and attract more businesses and talented people, and develop future-focused skills and career opportunities.”


Making a difference

Kind-hearted pupils, staff, and parents at Cheadle Hulme School have raised more than £3,000 to provide PPE to healthcare workers. The school is making and delivering face shields, goggles and scrubs to frontline workers and primary carers in Stockport and across the North West, including 13 hospitals and GP surgeries. Design and technology staff, led by teacher Angus Tulloch, are on course to make more than 3,000 face shields using 3D printers with personal ‘CHS to NHS with love’ messages.

They have also launched an online campaign asking for donations to buy materials to produce more and, alongside their remote learning, pupils are making laundry bags for medical staff to use for washing their scrubs. Others have posted flyers to vulnerable neighbours with offers of help and staff have sewn scrubs.

Cheadle Hulme School head Neil Smith says: “We are all hugely grateful for everything those working on the frontline and in healthcare are doing. Their selflessness is a valuable lesson for us all and while CHS has always been proud to support and serve its wider community, in these particularly difficult times it’s so encouraging to see everyone pulling together.”


Dolled up

Chester’s Doll Beauty has added another important customer to its business. Loved by celebrities including Tamara Ecclestone, Jennifer Hudson and members of Little Mix, NHS workers at The Countess of Chester Hospital have now been getting the Doll Beauty treatment. The team has created more than 120 self-care pamper packages including fake tan, make-up, foot masks and face masks that have been donated to NHS staff.


A company that gels

A Crewe-based chemical expert company has increased production as a new Covid-19 sanitiser proves more effective than alcohol-based sanitiser gel. Qualkem, the parent trademarked brand of Repclif Chemical Services Ltd, worked with partners to develop Electrosan, a stabilised hypochlorous-based sanitiser last year. It was launched last summer but has taken on new significance due to the rise of the global coronavirus pandemic. It is now being supplied to those desperately in need, including the NHS, dentists, the rail industry and the care sector.


Lockdown lifeline

The Cheshire Agricultural Society is working with local organisations including Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Covid-19 Rural Support Group South Cheshire, The Wishing Well Project, Hopes and Beams and Cheshire Wildlife Trust to support the community. They have created a page online signposting the rural community to organisations that can help and support them. Visit ow.ly/g8ox50z4hwy


Open for Business

Knutsford Town Council and Boxed Red Marketing have launched a website designed to support operating businesses. Companies that are open are being listed on the site so residents can see in one place what is on offer. It has been launched in conjunction with WeAreKnutsford and their Knutsford Virtual High Street Facebook page. For more information visit knutsfordhighstreet.co.uk


Bobby’s champions

While sporting legend Sir Bobby Charlton may be best known for his prowess on the football pitch, Sir Bobby’s admirable humanitarian work is also one that wins in the developing world through his Knutsford-based charity, The Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation (SBCF). The not-for-profit organisation was established following a trip made by Sir Bobby to Cambodia, where he witnessed the devastating impact landmines and the legacy of forgotten war were still having on innocent civilian communities.

Now, the charity has launched a Covid-19 Emergency Fund Appeal to help support these same countries, which are being disproportionately disadvantaged by the current global pandemic. Through existing funding partnerships with local NGOs, the foundation has already started providing much-needed support in countries including Cambodia, Jordan and Iraq, prioritising the delivery of ventilators. It has also been working with research and engineering partners to produce an improvised, low-cost ventilator, which can be easily replicated and in service in a matter of weeks.


Care packages

Give a well-earned clap to staff at Asian fusion restaurant Vermilion in Manchester. The team has been serving up meals to NHS frontline staff at North Manchester General Hospital, Royal Oldham Hospital Accident and Emergency, The Manchester Children’s Hospital and homeless charity, Barnabus.


Getting crafty for carers

Pupils from Beech Hall School in Tytherington have put their design and technology skills to use making PPE for more than 200 local carers. The school has transformed its recently opened design and technology building into a PPE production line, creating 300 pre-assembled protective visors for six local care homes.

Pupils Scarlett and Rory Buckley, who are still attending the school with Beech Hall’s design and technology teacher Colin Richards, have used the school’s equipment, including a high-tech laser-cutting machine, to manufacture and assemble the critical items.

Headmaster James Allen said: “We feel privileged to be able to offer support to those working relentlessly on the frontline in our local community, as they admirably support us at this unprecedented and very worrying time. Our pupils have really stepped up to the mark in producing vital equipment that is currently in such high demand, to help keep key workers and their families safe.”


Click and connect

Stockport’s Borough Care is helping families stay in touch during lockdown. Residents are sharing video messages with their loved ones on social media and staff are making sure families are staying connected with telephone and video calls as well as allowing family members to wave through the window to their relatives.


It’s good to read

A mindset coach who helps high-achieving individuals, competitive athletes and entrepreneurs has focused her attention on a different audience by creating a children’s book. Kay Woodburn, 37, has poured her neuro-science knowledge into Suzie Super Trouper, a free flip-book designed to help our children navigate some of the emotions they are feeling during the pandemic.

It tells the tale of a little girl in lockdown and a super cat that guides her, tapping into subliminal neuro-linguistic programming techniques.

“I saw kids panicking and feeling upset, lashing out with temper tantrums they wouldn’t usually have, and struggling to deal with very complex emotions about what is happening to them right now,” says Kay. “I also saw parents in despair, many feeling broken already by the unnatural juggling acts they are being asked to perform. My aim with Suzie Super Trooper is to equip parents with what they need to help their children get what they need, and to get families talking openly about how everyone is feeling.”

Suzie Super Trouper is recommended for 4 to 10-year-olds and is available at online.flipbuilder.com/abdf/pqki/mobile/index.html


Soap far, soap good

Well done to enterprising Warrington brother and sister duo Anna and Isaac Hart, who have turned their already successful soap business into a way of raising funds for the NHS. The young entrepreneurs, who established SoapFit last year, set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for key workers fighting the coronavirus outbreak in Warrington. Their aim was to raise £500 to make their natural, vegan soap and hand balm for those on the front line. Within 24 hours they had surpassed their £500 target and, at the time of going to press, were close to reaching their new target of £1,000. Requests for soap and hand balm have come in from London, Yorkshire, Lancashire and closer to home in Cheshire. Soaps they make are given away to support their heroes.



A return to the wards

When Candice Reay’s pilates business in Knutsford closed at the start of lockdown, she decided to dedicate her time to looking after coronavirus patients at Macclesfield Hospital. The mother of four, who worked as a nurse in London before retraining in pilates, had just finished a return to nursing course, with the aim of working part-time as a pilates teacher and nurse, when the coronavirus struck. Candice, whose children are aged five to 13, has been working on the respiratory ward and Covid-19 wards.


Art with heart

Children and young people in schools and care settings operated by Stockport’s Together Trust have been creating colourful artwork to adorn the walls of the NHS Nightingale Hospital North West at Manchester Central. The children, many who have learning disabilities, complex needs and autism, have been busy creating art to add cheer to the new facility.

Mark Lee, chief executive, says: “Art plays an important part in everything we do, and we use art to help our children and young people express themselves. I’m delighted to see them responding in this way.”


Hope blooms

Community groups and businesses in Tarporley have been spreading a little cheer by distributing cards with sunflower seeds to be planted as a symbol of hope. Tarporley Parish Council, GB Social, Tarporley Garden Centre and councillor Eveleigh Moore-Dutton want to encourage positivity and strength in the community. Once they have bloomed a Sunflower Summer Walk will be held. Sunflower seeds already planted are available for a 50 pence donation to Tarporley War Memorial Hospital. For more information, or to volunteer to plant additional sunflowers in the village, email helpline@tarporley.org.uk or call 01829 833069


Mind over matter

Active Cheshire has joined forces with Merseyside Sport Foundation and mental health charity, Mind, to get people active. The organisation, as a part of its Active Minds campaign, will organise virtual workshops, networking sessions and distribute licences for mental health awareness courses for sport and physical activity e-learning.



Working together

University of Chester staff are pooling laboratory consumables for the NHS and other frontline care services. Departments from across the university have been working together remotely to check inventory lists for gloves, face masks, safety glasses, disinfectant wipes/fluid, hand sanitiser, disposable lab coats and much more to be sent to local social care and NHS providers including Cheshire West and Chester Council, Countess of Chester Hospital and NHS Wirral CCG.

The University’s Biological Sciences Department has also supported Public Health England North West with donations of genetics reagents required for Covid-19 diagnostic testing to address shortages at testing facilities.


Sew good

Ditzy Rose Makery has delivered its first batch of handmade headbands and laundry scrubs bags to nurses at The Countess of Chester Hospital. Staff, whose ears were getting sore from constantly wearing facial protective masks, were grateful for the surprise delivery from the Tattenhall gift shop. They have been made by a small virtual team from a weekly Knit and Natter sewing session to recognise the efforts of key workers.

Ditzy Rose Makery’s shop had to be closed during lockdown but has been delivering gifts, greeting cards and crafts to people locally who are isolated or at risk. A new range of craft kits, to support local makers also impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, has also begun to be provided with craft kits and craft boxes available online. For more information contact nikki@ditzyrose.co.uk. ditzyrose.co.uk


Cheers to them

Gawsworth-based Cherry Bean has donated supplies of tea, coffee, chocolate, milk and biscuits to East Cheshire Hospice in gratitude for their support of their residents and families. Director Arfan Khan said: “It’s a small thank you to staff who looked after family members, friends and employees.”


Happy Herbie

Kitty Orme normally uses her VW campervan Birdie to put smiles on the faces of wedding guests, but she is now bringing happiness to Tarporley with Herbie, her classic VW Beetle.

Kitty, along with a neighbour, has decorated the classic car and a campervan with flowers and positive quotes, encouraging passers-by to donate funds to Tarporley Hospital.

We’ve set up outside my neighbour’s house and on the high street in Tarporley and have raised several hundreds of pounds and brought lots of smiles,” says Kitty.


Help a hero

Nurses at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust were given a boost with a luxury self-care gift from The Hut Group’s lookfantastic.com. A massive 10,000 items were distributed to male and female nursing staff, including Jill Findlay, a matron in the Emergency Department at Manchester Royal Infirmary (pictured).


A Cheshire Life line

Happy deliveries from Age UK Cheshire East, including copies of Cheshire Life and lovingly penned letters, cards and pictures from children at Terra Nova School, Jodrell Bank, have been delivered to isolated and elderly people in the area. Both the school and Cheshire Life were keen to support those who may be feeling an impact on their mental health during isolation.

Damon Taylor, chief executive of Age UK Cheshire East, says: “It’s wonderful Cheshire Life has donated these magazines, which we will be distributing to a number of isolated older people. It will mean so much to older people who are currently stuck in their homes and I’m sure it will remind them of better times and what it means to live in our beautiful county.”