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Meet Bermuda’s Covid Heroes!

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Taking precautions: a cashier tallies up a customer's bill (File photograph)

The Royal Gazette asked the public to tell us who their ‘Covid Hero’ was during the pandemic.

Many shared stories about people who inspired them or helped them get through the hardships faced for almost 18 months.

Although we received countless nominations – all of whom made a difference in their own right – we wanted to highlight the warmth and dedication shown by the following heroes.

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous were nominated for their adjustment to the pandemic.

Bermuda AA was quick to set up online meetings after the Government enacted a shelter in place order in March last year.

An anonymous nominator said that daily schedules were set up “quickly and quietly” and that their transition was even faster than some businesses.

He added that the group filled in to offer support while treatment centres and counsellors were still transitioning to virtual aid.

Some participants were even given phones or computers donated by anonymous individuals so that they could join.

The nominator said some meetings were still held online and they were prepared to go back to fully digital if necessary.

He called the effort “a constellation of people that quietly, efficiently linked us all together – in service to one another”.

The nominator also highlighted the help of network providers such as Digicel, which offered free hotspots to the Salvation Army and other shelters so that residents could attend virtual Zoom meetings.

Corey Butterfield nominated his cousin, Scawn Butterfield, who delivered 40 meals a day to people in need and bought groceries for many more.

Mr Butterfield, an elder care specialist who also delivers The Royal Gazette newspapers, started doing his rounds last year after he lost his job at a care home.

He started by picking up two meals from a feeding programme to deliver to his mother and an elderly neighbour, but the gesture quickly spiralled as the programme and other elderly and disabled residents asked for his help in delivering food.

Mr Butterfield soon developed a delivery route that stretched from the old Cable & Wireless satellite on Middle Road in Devonshire to King Street in Hamilton – all on top of his paper delivery route.

Mr Butterfield caught the eye of Christopher Famous, the Progressive Labour Party MP for Devonshire East, who offered to make additional meals for Mr Butterfield to deliver.

He also started delivering groceries to these neighbours in need, which he collected using grocery vouchers and some food and money donated to him by family members.

Rachel Biggs nominated her colleague Desiree Spriggs for her help in bringing and maintaining Covid-19 testing on the island.

Dr Spriggs, the head of Helix Genetic and Scientific Solutions, worked on behalf of the Ministry of Health to acquire equipment, reagents and testing supplies from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) last year.

She and her team worked around the clock alongside the Bermuda Government Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, led by Carika Weldon, to carry out as many as 900 Covid-19 tests between March and June.

Helix also became the first company on the island to have its real-time PCR – polymerase chain reaction – instrument validated for testing Covid-19.

This validation and several others that followed were praised by PAHO and Public Health England.

Dr Spriggs trained other doctors in how to carry out these tests and eventually helped King Edward VII Memorial Hospital set up its own testing office.

Helix’s contract with the Government ended in June 14 after testing became widespread and more cost-effective.

Dr Spriggs was also recognised for her hard work and innovation when she was given the International Girls in ICT Day Award from the Department of IT Policy and Innovation last April.

Kathy Fox, of Pals Bermuda (File photograph)

Melanie Gauntlett nominated Kathy Fox, of the cancer charity Pals, for her palliative care.

Ms Fox assisted Ms Gauntlett’s grandmother, whom she asked remain anonymous, in her final days of dealing with pancreatic cancer in October last year.

Ms Gauntlett said that she and her family struggled with their mental health as they took care of her grandmother – not only because of her illness, but also from the fear of contracting the coronavirus.

But she added that Ms Fox was a “saving grace” who help her grandmother and the rest of the family come to terms with her eventual death.

Ms Gauntlett said the nurse helped them “face the impending loss with dignity and strength, not fear and despair”.

She felt inspired by Ms Fox’s “sunny disposition”, which she carried throughout her work despite the mental toll of the pandemic and palliative care.

Ms Gauntlett said: “Nurses and caregivers should all be commended, but those who care for people in their last days – who see death and loss all day, every day and still manage to keep smiling in the middle of a pandemic – they are the real MVPs.”

Head nurse Geneive Williams-Hart, “Nurse Genny” (File photograph)

Jamal Hart nominated his wife, Geneive Williams-Hart, for her work as a lead nurse in the island’s vaccine roll-out.

“Nurse Genny” was among those who received the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines that reached the island on January 8 and she, and other nurses, were tasked with safely storing, mixing and distributing the vaccines, as well as organising teams of other nurses and training them on how to administer the shots.

Mr Hart said his wife helped set up vaccination clinics at the Bermuda Police Recreation Club in Devonshire and the Bermuda College in Paget.

She spent an “enormous” number of hours at work, often clocking in about 12 hours a day and taking the mantra of “first one in, last one out” to heart.

Ms Williams-Hart has also been an advocate for getting the jab, often making time to speak with strangers and loved ones who asked for advice.

Mr Hart said: “It has been a thankless job, but the love she has for her profession and the well being of people in general have kept her strong.”

Dave Horan, the principal of Warwick Academy (File photograph)

Members of the Warwick Academy community nominated principal Dave Horan as its Covid Hero for his leadership throughout the pandemic.

Mr Horan, who has been at the helm of the school since 2016, helped it adjust as quickly as he could to every change and restriction that happened.

He helped keep Warwick Academy’s 856 pupils safe while ensuring that their education was unaffected.

Mr Horan also worked to keep his staff calm through almost two school years of the pandemic while also ensuring that they were all employed, the nomination said.

A spokeswoman for the school said Mr Horan did as much as he could to learn about the effects of Covid-19 and negotiated with Government officials and examination boards overseas.

She added that the head of school juggled his added responsibilities with the wellbeing of his two children.

Mr Horan won an internal prize on June 25 known as the Ascendant Award, which honours individuals for “digging deep, generosity of spirit and going above and beyond in a quiet way to do good things”.

Staff who attended the ceremony gave him a standing ovation as he received his award.

Libby Brewin, a Bermudian urologist living in Southampton, England (Photograph supplied)

Elspeth Weisberg nominated her daughter, Libby Brewin, as her Covid Hero for her work on the medical front lines in the UK.

Dr Brewin, a Bermudian urologist living in Southampton, has been working non-stop with the UK National Health Service since March last year.

She dedicated her time to helping infected patients after elective surgeries were cancelled and, like many other healthcare workers, had her leave cancelled and often found herself doing extra shifts in the ICU.

Ms Weisberg said that Dr Brewin even contracted Covid-19, but went right back to work after she recovered.

She added that her daughter started working extra weekends without pay this year to help the NHS clear their backlog of patients waiting for non-emergency surgeries.

When Dr Brewin is not at the hospital or working on a research paper, she is likely competing in a triathlon to “relax”.

Ms Weisberg said: “I find her dedication quite inspirational and I don’t know how she finds the drive and the energy.”

Private Jahmir Durham, a medic with the Royal Bermuda Regiment (Photograph supplied)

Lisa Smith nominated her daughter, Jahmir Durham, for completing her work as a medic for the Royal Bermuda Regiment while away from her three-year-old son.

Private Durham, who had been with the RBR for eight years, was embodied in March last year when the virus first reached Bermuda.

Ms Smith explained that her daughter was in the field for more than five weeks – much longer than anticipated – and rarely got to see her son, Jayce.

Ms Smith, who looked after Jayce while his mother was at work, added that her daughter video-called as often as she could so she could share an often tearful moment with her son.

Private Durham eventually returned home in May last year and stayed with her family until she was embodied again in March.

Although this embodiment lasted about three weeks, she found herself away from her family for another fortnight when she tested positive for Covid-19.

Private Durham went right back to work after her quarantine to help with the new recruits.

She added: “I am proud to be the mother of a Covid-19 Hero.”

David Thompson with Christ Church, Warwick (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Morag Smith nominated David Thompson as her Covid Hero for leading a feeding programme at Christ Church Warwick around the time the pandemic hit.

Mr Thompson put out a call for volunteers for his Loads of Love Programme last February, which offered showers, laundry services and breakfast to those in need.

But when the pandemic took hold in Bermuda, the organiser expanded the programme to three meals a day, every day, before it joined an island-wide feeding programme run by The Loren at Pink Beach and Butterfield Bank.

Ms Smith, who volunteered at the programme, said Mr Thompson cooked as many as 300 meals a day at the Presbyterian church, with other meals donated from the Huckleberry restaurant in Pembroke.

She added that he even led the programme after he suffered a serious shoulder injury in May that required overseas surgery.

Mr Thompson delivered lunches, served those who came in person, appealed for assistance and laundered the clothes from people staying at the shelter at CedarBridge Academy.

Ms Smith said: “David's contribution to Bermuda is boundless”.

Two separate women nominated cashiers and other workers in supermarkets across the island.

Grocery store workers clocked in every day during the pandemic to assist the public in buying essential items.

One nominator, Laura West-Burt, noted how many put their physical and mental health on the line to provide for the community, even when little was known about Covid-19.

Cecily Smith, another nominator, said many workers carried a positive attitude in spite of the daily uncertainty.

She said many could have opted to stay home for their own sake or the safety of their families.

Ms Smith said: “These ladies and gentlemen haven’t missed a beat serving the general public, putting in many hours, leaving their homes in the dark and risking their lives to serve us daily.”

Julie Harrington, a registered nurse (Photograph supplied)

Linda Hollis nominated Julie Harrington as her Covid Hero for her nursing work.

She said the sem-retired nurse learnt as much as she could about the novel coronavirus last March and offered herself to work full-time throughout the pandemic.

She made herself available as often as she could to administer vaccination jabs once they were flown in.

If there were jabs available at the end of the day, Ms Harrington would alert others who had signed up to make sure that no vaccine had gone unused.

She added Ms Harrington transitioned to contact tracing once the need for vaccine volunteers diminished.

Ms Hollis said: “She has never neglected her nursing skills and has sought out employment wherever there has been a need.”

She added: “Bermuda is in the very capable hands of a true, knowledgeable nurse when it comes to my nominee for a Covid Hero.”

Noah McHardy (File photograph)

Lucy Willitts and Rachel Gonzalez nominated their coworkers Dean Parris and Noah McHardy for adding a personal touch to their Covid-19 tests and vaccinations.

Mr Parris and Mr McHardy, who work for the Department of Health, set up a Covid-19 testing site earlier this year at the Anglican Cathedral on Church Street, Hamilton.

The two women, who volunteered at the Cathedral’s feeding programme, said the two men offered to give them swab tests when they were available because of the work the women did.

Ms Willitts said the men also helped them set up appointments to get their vaccination jabs and even took them to and from both appointments.

She added: “The Ministry of Health couldn’t have gotten two better people.

“I’m sure there are others, but because we were in close contact with them we felt that they went over and above.“

Ms Willitts said the two men showed compassion and gentleness towards everyone they tested – so much so that the women bought them Superman-themed T-shirts.

Ms Gonzalez said Mr Parris often helped others, including herself, through their concerns about travel authorisations by contacting them directly and maintaining a cheerful and helpful disposition.

She added: “To call these two ‘wonderful human beings’ is an understatement – they are a Godsend.”

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Published July 16, 2021 at 2:59 pm (Updated July 16, 2021 at 4:41 pm)

Meet Bermuda’s Covid Heroes!

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