Key Worker Heroes
In these turbulent and tough times we celebrate our members who deserve recognition for the fabulous work that they are doing outside of the sport. If know someone who deserves to be featured please contact us and let us know.
British Skydiving Council Member, Former team member of NFTO
Kate has been a physiotherapist for the last 13 years. Since the Covid 19 pandemic Kate went back to work for the NHS.
Kate explains "For the last few months I worked in the Community therapy team, as an emergency responder. I visited patients in their homes who needed emergency assessment for equipment (such as hospital beds, hoists, commodes and walking aids), care packages and onward referrals to other health and social care teams. This was vital to allow them to either stay at home safely and avoid hospital admissions or if they were at the end of their life, to allow them to spend there last few days at home with their families or in familiar surroundings with the home hospice staff.
PPE is essential, I had used it before but I hadn’t expected it to cause such a challenge. Unfortunately the PPE doesn’t have steam resistance or visibility of my Cookie Helmet. So much of our communication comes from facial expressions which are so important.. It’s been difficult not to be able to give a patient a reassuring smile, or let them see a friendly face, sometimes they can’t see our eyes well when the visors steam up and you almost have to remind them there is a human behind the mask.
The community team is now back to capacity with staffing and so I have just moved onto a new role with Public Health England.
As a Skydiving community our members have done so much already by following the stay at home and stay alert messages. We can continue to contribute and I would please urge you to comply with the NHS Test and Trace Programme is you are contacted. Contract tracing will help protect you, your friends, family, the community and the NHS by containing the spread of the virus and ultimately allow us to get back to skydiving sooner"
Satori Aqua 4-way FS team - competed in A category, 2015 nationals / PUPS 2019 bigway informal record holder / Working towards FF2 and wingsuiting
Theodora is currently working in the Covid wards at Homerton University Hospital and A&E at Newham University Hospital, her role was designed specifically for medical students with clinical experience to help doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants deliver patient care.
Theodora adds "The role itself is very fluid, with duties ranging across clerking patients, blood taking, IV lines setup, feeding and washing patients, monitoring vital signs, updating families, moving patients across wards, picking up medication from the inpatient pharmacy, restocking PPE, checking your colleagues have put on their PPE correctly or even preparing bodies to be given back to families.
For me, the biggest impact of COVID is how it has turned completely around the human aspects of healthcare. It has been incredible to watch how hospital teams have adapted and dealt with challenges, from not knowing whether you will see your colleagues again after the end of today’s shift; to learning your way on how to manage a new disease; to alleviating suffering for patients who can’t have their close ones physically there at their bedside.
Re-learning how to do everything with PPE and the extra time/ complications involved. No training could help prepare for how difficult it can be to talk clearly through a mask or recognise your team buddies (especially when you deal with a cardiac arrest) and how stressful it might feel for a patient not to see your full face – even though eye contact can still show care and holding a patient’s hand through three layers of gloves and the hazmat suit would mean a lot. Even when updating families on the phone (and patients on whether their families had called) would often didn’t feel good enough and very upsetting at times.
For me to get involved means I am an extra pair of helping hands and able to give back to the system and people that have invested and continue to invest in my training and education. It is something that keeps me motivated to get up in the morning during lockdown. At a time of staff shortage across the board as healthcare workers had to self-isolate, simply being one extra body with a bit of practical skills and clinical knowledge there has made a difference!
My admiration goes to everybody working on and supporting the frontline! Special kudos to the professionals who have kept going, stayed positive and were always there to help and chat despite having to make so many difficult decisions such as discussing lowering intensive care support for a patient given low likelihood of survival and delivering the news to the family; living away from their families to keep their loved ones safe and accepting they can’t be there for them; or simply dealing with survivor guilt as you return to work after recovering from COVID whilst your colleague is fighting for their life and deteriorating on ITU.
Everybody is having their own personal battles and demons but that hasn’t stopped anybody from being there for others whenever you may need support, talking through a difficult experience or another human who cares and is happy to simply be there with and for you."
A License working towards FS1
Zoe graduated as a physiotherapist 9 months ago and is currently working in the cardiothoracic department at the Royal Stoke University Hospital. Since Covid19 pandemic started she has been working mainly in critical care caring for patients with coronavirus.
Zoe explains "In critical care, our patients often have difficulty breathing therefore may require ventilator support and have become weak as a result of admission. As physiotherapists, we provide treatment to aid the clearance of secretions trapped in the airways to help reduce the risk of infections, lung collapse and reduce the need for oxygen. We also help improve the patient’s quality of life through rehabilitation, muscle strengthening, mobility practice and functional activities.
Since Covid 19 our caseload has changed considerably. As both a therapy team and multi-disciplinary team, we have all had to adapt to the ever-changing environment and pressures placed on the hospital. However, I am proud to be a part of the incredible service that the NHS delivers and to do my bit to help treat patients, improving their ability to breathe and aim towards getting them up, moving and home again.
I qualified as an A-licence skydiver in February this year after completing my AFF in Portugal. My local drop zone is Tilstock Airfield in Whitchurch where I completed a tandem less than a year ago, inspiring me to continue with the sport. I am hoping to complete my FS1 qualification this year so that I can jump with fellow skydivers. Unfortunately we have not been able to jump due to the lockdown and I miss the feeling of being in the sky but as a healthcare professional in particular, I understand the importance of what we are all doing and am grateful to everyone for doing what they can."
British Skydiving Instructor of the Year 2019
Tandem Instructor at Skydive Tilstock Freefall Club
Gary has been a half-time hospice chaplain for 16 years now, the last 12 at Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham, working as part of the Family Support Team and as the hospice chaplain providing spiritual and emotional support to patients, their families, carers and staff.
By spirituality, Gary explains that could mean anything that affects a person’s hopes, values or sense of meaning. “These are things that we all have in common and a person may express that spirituality through a religion, but a lot of us chose to express it by jumping out of aeroplanes from a great height and some of us do both. It’s the things that make us who we are that matter. Any life changing event may cause us to look at what we hold dear and what really matters to us and the job of a chaplain is to be there with someone as an independent ear to help someone explore what they think and come to their own conclusions – we never judge nor do we present our own solutions – although I have to say that I have got a number of family members interested and they’ve done fund raising tandems, even one of local funeral directors gave it a go. As part of what I do I work with a number of bereaved people at any one time, helping them cope with complex grief. All of us grieve in different ways and sometimes the circumstances leading up to or around a death can result in a more traumatic grief, which we try to help people come to terms with. On top of this I am a mindfulness teacher and teach groups regularly. Mindfulness is a technique that helps people cope with the situation they find themselves in, from ongoing pain for which there is no relief, to anxiety and fear over what is happening – basically living with everyday life.
In the current crisis, my hospice has managed to continue providing in-patient services, but most of our other on-site services have been suspended or adapted. All our outpatients and day patients are being supported by phone or video call instead of face to face support. Our Physios and Occupational Therapist are still supporting our in and out patients and using innovative ways e.g. YouTube videos so that our patients can continue to exercise. This works well with many of my clients and I continue to offer bereavement support and spiritual support this way and our mindfulness groups have continued via teleconferencing. Although I am not on site on a daily basis anymore, our staff who are can continue to do what they have always done, which is provide support directly themselves and then use me as a backup to talk through the issues and give advice over the phone. I am available both at the hospice and at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital (our local NHS hospital where I act as an on call chaplain to cover a 24/7 rota) to be called in if necessary for any patient that needs to talk but can’t use a phone or is at end of life.
Fortunately, a certain amount of visiting by a small number of close relatives is still currently possible at the hospice as we operate quite differently to a hospital but even here there is a much greater level of anxiety around not being able to visit someone you love before they die and we are continuing to support grieving relatives as best as we can and encouraging video call visits instead to prioritise the safety of all of our patients, their families and the staff that care for them.
As a chaplain I also take some funerals and I’m pleased to say that the two I have been involved with since the lockdown restrictions came into place have been dignified, respectful and appropriate for the families involved and we managed to live stream one and record the other so that those who were not able to be present could still be a part of the proceedings.”
Ex-DZO of Skydive Tilstock Freefall Club
Colin Fitzmaurice a Paramedic who has been a member for forty-two years since completing his static-line round course at the Eagle Sports Parachute Centre in Kent. Since then Skydiving has taken Colin all over the World.
Colin adds “When I returned from Australia in 1992 I realised that I needed to get involved with more grown up stuff like getting a job and I’ve now been a Paramedic for twenty eight years with the Shropshire and West Midlands Ambulance Services. This career has run concurrently with being the DZO of Skydive Tilstock Freefall Club for twenty-three years before handing over the reins to Alex Busby Hicks and his lovely wife Kat Busby Hicks four years ago.
We work a shift pattern of two days and two nights at a time, each of twelve hours. However, given that we are so occupied with the current COVID-19 situation and that I can’t shoot off to Empuriabrava when I feel like it, we are all working lots of overtime.
We have been overwhelmed by the support shown to ourselves and the other key workers by the general public and the generous gifts of cakes etc. I think diabetes will get me before the virus! My advice to my fellow skydivers is to stay at home and don’t try out those daft ideas that will get you too badly injured as we’re busy enough already! Together we can get the virus under control and get the jump planes back in the air.”
Member of VelociWraptors who are the British National Champions in 2-way Canopy Formation
Although not a frontline key worker Wes has been contributing in his own way.
For his day job Wes works for Jaguar Land Rover within the R&D department managing the test equipment for the next generation of high efficiency vehicles. When the shortage of PPE was announced it was quickly realised all their prototyping machinery they could be used to manufacturer face shields.
Within a few days this was set up and various designs were trialled by local health workers and production is now in full swing. While this was all going on a few members around the office with 3D printers at home were discussing how they could get involved, although Wes had no experience with 3D printers he thought that was the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill and contribute to those in need at the same time.
Wes explains “I spent the next 2 nights reading everything I could about 3D printing and printers before purchasing 2 printers and enough material for the first 100 masks. Other members from the office without 3D printers had been working on making a press for the clear shield and setting up distribution network so between us we had everything we needed to get going!
The limiting factor in mass producing the parts in this way is the speed of the printers, the only way to produce more is by buying more printers, that’s when I decided to set up a fund raiser for friends and family to help out and get involved too. I currently have 1 printer up and running making 10 head straps a day with 2 more machines on order thanks to the amazing donations I’ve received so far.
If anyone else would like to get involved there are similar groups all over the country working at a national and local level. We decided to remain independent so we could ensure the PPE got to our loved ones who are working in frontline positions as well as second line positions which are sometimes being over looked such as nursing homes and prison staff."
Silver Medal in VFS, part of head up and head down British Records.
Michael is a High Voltage Engineer, otherwise known in the industry as a Senior Authorised Person (SAP). He is allowed to switch and place earths on high voltage (HV) distribution systems, then write permits putting people to work on those systems. When proved dead, it’s a common courtesy that the SAP always touches the equipment first, so he better get it right!
Working as part of a very small team working for Thames Water in London they look after the HV distribution at more than 140 major water treatment, water pumping and sewage treatment sites. A loss of power at some critical water pumping sites means a loss of water at the taps of thousands of homes in as little as 30mins.
Micheal added "It’s up to us to keep the power on and maintain the HV equipment so those sites can provide Londoners with clean drinking water and also to take away their waste. Waste is processed to recover gas to burn and generate power back into the network. That generation is actually quite vast and people don’t realise that Thames Water are also a significant power provider to the network so next time you go to the toilet it could be your poo powering the lights!
Water and sewage is an industry built on health & safety, electrical regs and good hygiene, this means it’s business as usual. Although I’m now classed as a tier two key worker. We normally work in small teams (or solo) and now we have to follow distancing guidelines, but I’ve never been busier. I’ve not dropped any planned work yet and I’ve also just finished a 3 week stint on overnight call covering for sick colleagues.
At the moment, I’m helped by the lack of London traffic, which has made it a lot easier to get around day or night, saving me a lot of normally lost time.
I feel fortunate to be in a good position at home right now and I want to do more than my fair share at work, as I know that it could all change at any moment.
So, just to finish by saying it’s also as important to look after your own well-being right now, do your exercise, play with your kids and don’t forget to laugh. (P.s. Don’t flush wet wipes!)"
Jumps at Hinton, is an FF1 rated coach and enjoys large group tracks
Jason is a Fire Fighter with the London Fire Brigade with 21 years’ service he is based at G28 Willesden, red watch.
The crew are currently running a four on four off duty system which consist of two days 9:30am until 20:00hrs and then two nights consisting 20:00 hrs until 9:30am, with five people on a watch and four different watches on one station red, white, blue and green. During the pandemic non-essential work has been reduced to limit the possible spread between the work force and the public this means as schools are now closed are community education visit have ceased although home fire safety checks are still being carried out for members of the community that may be of high risk, under the current climate additional safety measures have been introduced to protect the fire crews and the public. With a large number of staff currently self-isolating or sick due the virus and new roles being implemented, the crews now have to be available for extra shifts .
Jason explained that “Attending emergency calls, not much has changed all though we’re now carrying some new kit and personal protection is very much at the forefront of our thoughts when helping the public and new procedures for decontaminating after incidents.
Since the lockdown has started, and everyone is having to stay home, the last few weeks have been getting busier which is very unfortunate as a lot of our work comes from people’s misfortune.
As all the frontline NHS staff, London ambulance service and police are so stretched we are now offering our support to the London Ambulance Service either by blue light driving or helping out in the back under guidance of a Paramedic, this a detachment for set period of time on their duty system.
We’re also supporting the PMART team, ( pandemic multi agency response team) a very difficult role which will hopefully cut the demand on the London ambulance service giving them the ability to see patient’s across London and give them the help they need, this consists of visiting care homes, hospices and people’s homes where they may have unfortunately passed away from COVID-19, each team will involve a health service professional to confirm the death, police officers to investigate the death and fire service to drive and prepare the deceased for collection.
I feel very privileged to be in my role that enables us all to give support to our other emergency services and to NHS colleagues while responding to the Coronavirus pandemic in our capital.
For all key workers please keep up the incredible work.”
Won the Nish Memorial Scrambles straight out of FS1 at Hinton with The Jackson Four
A passionate angle tracking jumper who loves the combination steep flying and forward speed with groups of people
Felix is a pediatric nurse by background of training. In order to be a PACP, Felix undertook a Masters Degree in Medical Science (MMedSci). This qualification in conjunction with extended advanced skills training by a qualified pediatric emergency medicine consultant doctor allows him to see children at point of entry to the emergency department and take a history, examine the child and make a diagnosis. If necessary he is also able to prescribe any medications or other treatments they may require.
Felix told us "It is very similar to the way in which a doctor works and indeed I work on the medical Rota rather than the nursing Rota.
Covid 19 has changed things immeasurably! I now have to wear, as a minimum a surgical mask and goggles at all times and then when dealing with suspected Covid19 children I wear a full sleeved gown and gloves and battery powered respirator mask.
As for the practicalities of seeing a patient we no longer examine ears noses or throats as the risk of inducing a cough in children whilst doing this is high and Covid19 is droplet transmitted so the last thing we would like is a child coughing in our face.
Things are tough in the department. We have taken the control measure of splitting the entire department in half and having a Covid19 (Red) side and a non-Covid19 (blue) side. Children and one parent (not other family members allowed) are seen initially in a separate building outside the ED and it is decided whether they are suitable to either enter the ED at all or go into red or blue side or be sent home immediately to self isolate."
British Record, 11 Females in wingsuit formation, September 2018
Competed in the AAA category with Mental Bloxx at the 2018 FS 4-way British Nationals
Carol is a Senior Physiotherapist with 19 years NHS experience and specialises in Children's Neurorehabilitation, working at the Children's Hospital in Oxford. She provides acute respiratory Physiotherapy in the Children's Critical Care Unit, including weekend and overnight on calls, for those on ventilators or respiratory support who would otherwise deteriorate.
Before the COVID19 epidemic Carol was enjoying a year long sabbatical in South Africa. She cut her trip short to return to the NHS to provide Physiotherapy staffing support to the adult critical care/medical teams.
Carol said "Wearing the level 2 PPE is taking some getting used to, especially when we are handling tiny babies and children on ventilators as well as trying to offer a friendly smile for parents. Seeing the effect of Covid19 first hand on the NHS system has completely reinforced that returning 4 months early from my career break was the right thing to do to directly help those in need.
My dedicated NHS colleagues and friends supported me to have my career break when it was a difficult time for our team, now it is my turn to support them as we all find our way through this unprecedented healthcare crisis.
I would also like to say a HUGE thank you to all the British Skydiving members who are directly and indirectly supporting the NHS and all key/essential workers. We really do appreciate it and every kind gesture really does make a difference and keep us going."
Volt4ge, British Army Formation Skydiving Team
2019 A class National Champions in 4-way FS
Away from her day job as a Corporal in the Royal Military Police, Gemma, volunteers as an Ambulance Co-Responder in support of the South Central Ambulance Service. Her role is to respond in marked response vehicles prior to the arrival of an ambulance, primarily to patients with Category 1 - Life Threatening and Category 2 - Emergency conditions which require immediate response.
Talking about her role, Gemma said "It means a lot to contribute towards the effort of providing emergency medical care to patients during this pandemic. Making a difference not only to the Ambulance crews by relieving a small amount of pressure but also to the care of the patients makes it all so worthwhile and now more than ever we feel incredibly valued. I am very proud to say that I am able to do my bit and be a part of the effort in providing front-line care at a time like this."
PARAMEDIC – LONDON AMBULANCE SERVICE
BRONZE MEDALLIST IN THE 2019 WORLD CUP OF SPEED
WORLD SPEED RECORD – 500.17 KM/H
Max has worked for the London Ambulance Service for 11 years and is based at Shoreditch Ambulance Station. Most of Max’s time is spent as part of an ambulance crew but has also spent several years as a solo responder on fast response cars as well as being part of the Cycle Response Unit.
Max explains “The current pandemic is really stretching us at the moment. The number of calls the service is receiving every day are much more than we’re used to and every crew is working really hard to stay on top of things. We’re also having to make some pretty tough clinical decisions too, doing our best to give people the care and support they need but at the same time we’re fighting a disease that is difficult to manage.
Along with A&E staff, we’re very much on the frontline of things and therefore most likely to contract the virus. I’m doing fine though, and doing my best to avoid being coughed on! We’re a bit short-staffed due to personnel in isolation but hopefully that will improve as the testing programme will allow many to return to work. However, many of us who have contracted the virus have been quite unwell and some of them are critical. We’ve all got our fingers crossed for them.“
If you know someone who deserves to be recognised please let us know.