A COMMUNITY has rallied together to raise thousands of pounds in memory of a much-loved doctor, who died from coronavirus at the age of 56.

Doctor Poornima Nair was the first Covid-19 patient to be admitted to the University Hospital of North Tees and Hartlepool.

She spent 46 days fighting the virus in intensive care before she died on Tuesday.

Her family have now set up a page on the Just Giving website with the aim of supporting intensive care staff at the hospital.

By last night, donations to the page stood at £8,455, surpassing the original target of £2,000.

Born in New Delhi, in India, Dr Nair studied there at the University College of Medical Sciences to follow her dream of becoming a doctor.

She and her husband Shlok Balupuri, a senior surgeon at Sunderland Royal Hospital, were married in India, and the couple have a son, Varun Nair Balupuri.

They moved to the UK in 1994, living in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, until 2010, and then in Wynyard for the last ten years.

Dr Nair worked at Station View Medical Centre in Bishop Auckland for 15 years, where she was popular amongst fellow staff and patients.

Rajesh Nanda, orthopaedic surgeon at the university hospital and close family friend, said: “The family and Poornima herself wanted to do something for the staff, so the whole aim is that this money goes to the staff and doctors ITU at North Tees Hospital.

“We want it to be used for their benefit directly, not to buy equipment, but for something that the staff will cherish.

“Whether they use it for the whole department's Christmas party, we will leave it for the staff to decide that.

“They’ve worked so hard, they need to let their hair down at some stage, and that’s the whole idea behind it.”

Her son said: “As evidenced by the hundreds of tributes online, it’s clear that she was a very loved and very compassionate doctor.

“As a mother, I can say that she supported me through everything in my life, and basically everything I am now is because of what she did for me and her sacrifices.

“She had love for everyone around her, her family and friends and then obviously her patients as well.”

Dr Nair was part of a society of doctors that held charity events every other year.

Dr Nanda added: “She was very keen to do a Bollywood charity event for one of her chosen charities, and what we were hoping was to invite all of the ITU staff there to be part of that celebration, to organise an evening for them, but unfortunately at this present time that’s not possible.

“So, we thought we’d raise the money this way and let them decide how to spend it.”

Her husband said: “I knew her for 40 years of my life, 30 years after marriage.

“Poornima, apart from being a very caring and very liked person, also touched a lot of lives.

“She had hobbies, and she did a lot of jewellery making, and exhibited them in various places for charity, and made a lot of friends through that as well.

“She had a very wide circle of people she knew and influenced.”

On the money raised so far, Varun said: “It’s testament to how many people cared about her.

“There’s about 190 individual contributions at the moment and that’s from her friends and especially from patients as well.

“She was in ITU for over 40 days, and we met with the doctors virtually every day, and every day we saw how much they were working, how much of their energy and emotions were put into caring for my mother.

“My mother expressed this as her wish to show all of our gratitude to the staff.”

Sarah Rose Westgarth, practice manager at Station View Medical Centre, said: “She was really caring and comforting, she wasn’t just a GP at the practice she welcomed us all into her home.

“When my children were poorly, she cared, if anything was happening with another staff member and it was personal, she’d actually show true emotion for the staff.”

The practice manager and staff put together a piece to display on the site gate in commemoration of the doctor, describing her as "the fairest flower in all the fields."