A FAMILY is raising money in memory of a grandfather who insisted they “do something big” to thank hospital staff who looked after him, shortly before he died with Covid 19.

Taxi driver Tony Birch passed away on February 2, a fortnight after he went into the University Hospital of North Durham with coronavirus.

Fully expecting to recover, he told his family he wanted to show his appreciation for the care he received whilst on Wards 5 and 6 and in intensive care.

The 71-year-old’s condition deteriorated and he lost his battle with the virus, but his loved ones remain inspired by his words and are raising funds in his memory for a family room at the hospital.

The Northern Echo:

Doing this in his legacy feels appropriate

Son Anthony Birch said: “The last time I spoke to him he said he wanted to do something for them at the hospital because he had been so well cared for.

“I said we’d get some flowers but he said ‘we must do something bigger than that’, we all imagined he’d be coming out and would organise a fundraiser.

“He had mild COPD but it was well managed and he seemed fit and healthy and kept working.

“He contracted Covid in mid-January so he’d been at home a week, then he got worse and moved to Durham, he’d been on a ventilator but seemed to get better but then he took a downward spiral and we unfortunately lost him.

“Doing this in his legacy feels appropriate.”

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo:

Mr Birch is survived by children Lisa, Mark and Anthony Birch and Melanie Floyd; wife Anne and stepchildren Claire Greeves and Andrew Fairless and eight grandchildren.

He started his business Tony’s Taxis in the mid-1990s and had a number of contracts with Durham County Council to transport children to school.

Through his work, he got to know lots of people in the Peterlee area and became involved with much of community life.

Mr Birch Jnr said: “He would do anything to help anyone and nothing was too much trouble.

“My dad was very charitable, leaving anonymous donations to various local charities and helping out where he could.

“He was a true local hero and a legend in his own right.

“He had so much praise for all of the staff that looked after him at hospital, especially those working in the ITU.

“During the current Covid-19 pandemic, NHS staff are doing their very best to treat the sick, protect the vulnerable and comfort relatives, without complaint.

“That’s why we’re looking raise some money for County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust Charity towards redecorating a family room- to show some appreciation for all of the care and comfort they gave to my Dad in his last few weeks.”

Pat Chambers, charity development manager at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Mr Birch’s family for all they’re doing and we’ll be working with them to ensure the money they raise is used to create a fitting legacy to him.

"The refurbished relatives room at University Hospital of North Durham will create a soothing and supportive environment for families, who are often at their most vulnerable as they wait for news of their loved ones.”

The family’s online fundraiser can be found at justgiving.com/fundraising/Tony-birch-a-hero-taken-too-soon