The friends who have been through an Msc and a pandemic together

Categories: School of Health and Society

When the lockdown was announced in March, it was an uncertain time for everyone.

Like many others working in healthcare, graduate Leanne Hayes wasn’t sure what would happen next. She’d worked as a physiotherapist for seven years before completing her master’s in Podiatry at the University of Salford. When lockdown began, she was about to start a new role as a podiatrist at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where she also works as a physiotherapist.

As the pandemic hit, Leanne’s work life was disrupted. All face-to-face appointments and surgery had to be stopped, and she was trained as a respiratory physiotherapist. Within a few weeks, Leanne was deployed to the inpatients team on the Covid ward at Leighton Hospital.

Leanne said: “At the beginning it was tough, because it was the unknown. We really didn’t know how many patients would be getting admitted, how these patients were going to present or the best way to treat them. It was just lots of information getting thrown at you constantly.”

The team had to adapt fast and get used to gowning up. The new PPE guidelines meant that staff couldn’t tell who was who; doctors, nurses and physios could usually be told apart by their uniforms. Eventually, the teams resorted to putting stickers on their visors.

On the situation, Leanne said: “You just do it, you don’t really think about it at all. You’re with a team, so it’s not just you on your own. I never gave it a second thought, really.”

Leanne’s good friend Keeley Foley studied alongside her at the University of Salford, and the two had remained close ever since. As the impact of the pandemic hit home, Leanne shared her experiences with Keeley, who was now working towards a clinical PhD.

Keeley told us she wasn’t surprised by how well Leanne handled the difficult situation.

“Leanne is amazing - she is selfless and always puts her friends, family and patients first. Physiotherapists are vital to provide specialist thoracic and general physio to Covid patients that are of high dependency, as well as those coming through recovery. I feel proud to call Leanne my friend.”

While listening to the radio one day, Keeley heard about the Illuminos Sentinels project - a unique ‘tree tribute’ to key workers in the Greater Manchester area. She decided to nominate Leanne for the project.

Leanne was selected, and her photo was projected into a tree in Parsonage Gardens, Spinningfields on Wednesday 17th June 2020.  

Leanne says didn’t think she’d be picked for the award, so didn’t even give it a second thought.

“I felt like it shouldn’t have been me, it should’ve been everyone else who was working on those Covid wards and on the front line. But on the night, my family went to see it, and there were other families, too. It was a nice moment.”

Keeley said: “I’m pleased her tree is in Spinningfields as the last time we were there together, we celebrated at The Ivy for our graduation with all our podiatrist friends.”

Keeley has also been helping to fight the coronavirus pandemic, by providing PPE to key workers. When lockdown began, Keeley started a not-for-profit organisation called Covid Smart with another friend, who is a GP. Covid Smart teamed up with seamstresses across the country and donated the fabric and materials to supply over 1000 scrubs to hospitals, care homes and hospices.  

“I thought the Manchester bee scrubs were a good way to recognise that Manchester always pulls together in a crisis and I thought the design would cheer up the staff and patients on the wards,” Keeley said.  

For now, Leanne is still working on the Covid ward. However, her shifts are changing from seven-day rotas and 10-hour days, to normal hours plus weekends.

“From a career point of view, it’s not ideal. I haven’t been near a foot for three or four 4 months, so you do worry about deskilling a little bit! But overall, you’ve got to take the positive out of this experience. It’s been like a different world, really.”

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