AS they battled to save the life of a mum-of-four, the nursing and medical team had no way of knowing how close to home their latest emergency would turn out to be.

The 41-year-old woman, who had been brought into Darlington Memorial Hospital, had gone into cardiac arrest after suffering a catastrophic brain aneurysm.

The emergency team members were oblivious to the fact that their patient was the sister of one of their closest colleagues who was away on holiday.

Trish Bannar-Martin, service manager of the emergency department at Darlington Memorial Hospital, was abroad when she received a call from her family to say her sister, Jenny Smith, had collapsed.

And, in a heartbreaking irony, she was being treated by the team in the emergency department Trish helps to manage back home in Darlington.

The medical staff initially managed to resuscitate Jenny, right, but a scan confirmed she had suffered a large subarachnoid haemorrhage.

While Trish was away, staff in the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) used a Facetime video call to  enable her to see what was happening from thousands of miles away before she was able to fly home to see her “beautiful sister” one last time.

Now, the “fantastic” nurses from Darlington’s emergency team have been presented with an award for their “outstanding professionalism and care” – after an emotional nomination by Trish.

Senior Sister Kym Kavanagh, Wayne Haswell, Rebecca Blake, Rachel Soley, Chloe Hail, and Hayley Reid received the Patient Choice Award during a ceremony organised by the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to mark International Nurses Day.

Fighting back tears, Trish read out the nomination during the awards ceremony, held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham, telling the audience: “They didn’t know Jenny’s name or history at that point but every single one of that team treated her as one of their own family.

“I cannot thank them enough for what they did in those early hours as their endeavours meant that not only did her children and family get some precious time with her, but I was able to fly home in time to say my goodbyes in person.

“We see and treat over 200 patients a day at our emergency departments at Darlington Memorial Hospital and the University Hospital of North Durham, and it would be all too easy to become desensitised to some of the traumatic events that occur for our patients and their families. However, knowing my sister and my family were in the hands of a fantastic team of nursing and medical staff got me through the hours I had to endure to fly home.

“The shock and the trauma in those early stages of a pathway of care can be difficult to manage, with so many complex cases and the pressures they face, but they do it on daily basis.

“I will be forever indebted that one of my teams and then ITU gave us as a family, and most importantly her children, precious time to say goodbye. Thank you is not enough.”

It was only after Trish had received the devastating news during her family holiday, and managed to get through to a colleague in the emergency department, that the family connection had emerged.

“It meant so much that they let me see her on Facetime in ITU, and gave me some precious time with her before the life-support system was turned off,” she said.

Trish also wants to highlight the “outstanding” contribution made by the senior doctors on duty, Andrew Shaw and Dr Khalida Akhtar, and the “amazing” care given in ITU. With the support of the trust’s charity, the ITU staff even arranged for “memory boxes” to be given to Jenny’s children – Ashleigh, 21, Tyler, 18, Kadyn, 12, and Devan, 10 – to help them cope with their grief.

“It’s not just the care given during the emergency that is so wonderful, it’s also the after-care that’s not always recognised throughout the whole patient journey,” Trish explained. “Staff working in accident and emergency departments work under such pressure, and face criticism whenever something goes wrong, but they do so much that is right every day.”

Jenny, who had two sisters and a brother, lived in Darlington and worked at EE in the town. Her daughters, Ashleigh and Tyler, are now waiting to start their training in January to follow careers in nursing.

“Her life was her children and she was incredibly proud of them,” said Trish. “She lost her life far too young – but I’m just so grateful that she was in the best hands possible at the end.”