VOLUNTEERS who have been helping out with the Covid-19 vaccination programme have been sharing their experiences following the closure of the clinic.

A total of 27 vaccinators and 12 volunteers have been working with Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) to roll-out the vaccine since January.

The trust's vaccination clinic closed this week after administering the second dose of the vaccine to its staff.

Among those to have helped out have been former nurses, and even a furloughed chef.

Head chef Rachel Rudham, 49, from Skelton, in North Yorkshire said: “The best thing for me was doing something useful with my time and different from my normal everyday life.

“The days at home are sometimes long and hard. Lockdown has been tough for everyone. I thought this would be a good way to meet a bunch of people and see how everyone else was dealing with the situation, whilst also doing some good.

“I’m a head chef in a village pub, which is a very sociable job, so I have missed having contact with people the most.”

She was a meet and greet marshal and also worked on the reception desk at the vaccination clinic.

She added: “I was lucky to be given the opportunity to be involved in the vaccine roll-out, however small my part was.

“This process is life changing for us all and I look forward to normality in the future.”

Wynn Glass, 60, from Chilton in County Durham, has been a TEWV volunteer for nearly three years.

Wynn Glass, from Chilton, in County Durham, was a volunteer

Wynn Glass, from Chilton, in County Durham, was a volunteer

After taking on a variety of roles including being a gardener at Lanchester Road Hospital and a befriender at West Park Hospital, he became a volunteer driver, which sees him collect and deliver PPE, prescriptions and food hampers across the trust.

When given the opportunity to be a meet and greet marshal at the vaccination clinic, he jumped at the chance.

He said: “I was excited, humbled and honoured at the prospect of being in a position of trust in delivering this wonderful gift to our country and community in the astronomical endeavour to beat this terrible virus.

“I was responsible for inviting people into rooms to fill in their details for the vaccination process.

“I felt an immediate connection to the people that I met and we shared our hope of overcoming this enormous challenge.

“We briefly interacted and identified in a positive and meaningful way which also empowered us, with smiles, polite interaction and the knowledge that we are not alone in this life changing battle.

“Many people remarked on our team’s performance in our delivery of the vaccine. It was a pleasure to be called professional, well organised and extremely safe in our practices.”

Volunteer marshal Sylvia Legowska, from Catterick Garrison, said she was "bursting with pride" at her involvement.

Sylvia Legowska

Sylvia Legowska

The 42-year-old, who previously worked in the mental health field, said: "I remember my favourite moment. I had a conversation with one lady who stated: ‘I was absolutely fine coming, but now I feel very emotional.’

“After an exchange of views, I realised the vaccination had a metaphorical meaning for her; she described having a vaccine as a defeat against Covid-19. It was very a special and meaningful moment; we also shared few tears together.

"Covid-19 has proven that we are in the same storm, although some of us have yachts, some have canoes and some are drowning.”

She added: “I have been inspired by people I have worked with, who motivated me to turn towards difficulties and show commitment and continuously discover how to help others.”

Retired nurse Laura Elizabeth Carr, 59, from Darlington, said she was happy to be working with the NHS again after 20 years as a community psychiatric nurse with TEWV.

The volunteer steward said: “The experience has made me feel energised and less of a passive observer of the pandemic.

"It has made me feel a part of the battalion of key workers managing it and I feel I can hold my head up when asked what I contributed through the lockdown."

“I’ve never been good at sitting still and I have found the lockdown difficult as I’m a restless soul. I like to be useful.

“I wanted to be a part of something important and worthwhile, working in a team with a clear aim and to support the key workers that have been working throughout the lockdown.

“The best part was being a part of something important- both locally and globally.

“Feeling part of a team, learning new ways of working, understanding the details of the vaccine and the logistics of how it all works. Having been a senior nurse for many years, it was really good fun to be in a role that was all about direct contact with people and seeing the job completed.

“Everyone that came to the clinic remarked on the smooth operation of it. It was also lovely to see some old friends!”

Lisa Webb, deputy head of quality improvement at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said: “Many people across the trust have given their time and expertise to ensure the set-up and smooth running of the vaccination centre in Middlesbrough.

“Setting up a vaccination clinic from scratch is no mean feat and it was a huge team effort in getting this up and running so quickly. It is important to recognise what has been achieved in the fight against Covid-19 and we couldn’t have achieved what we did without the significant contribution from our trust pharmacy team, heads of nursing, estates and facilities, quality improvement team and of course our vaccinators.

"Volunteers supporting the flow of staff through the clinic have been phenomenal, as have the many others who have worked tirelessly over the last few months.”