A medal from the Queen to recognise her work during the pandemic marked both an honour and a sadness for nurse Maria Hewitt.
The 58-year-old was recognised in Her Majesty’s Jubilee Birthday Honours list for her service during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She will receive the British Empire Medal.
However, she describes the moment as “bittersweet” because her husband John cannot share the moment with her.
John died after contracting Covid in June 2020.
Despite her deep grief, Mrs Hewitt went back to work, caring for patients on Glasgow’s Covid wards.
She told BBC Scotland: “To lose such a loving husband and such a kind man was a horrific time. After six weeks I went back to the NHS and worked so hard.
“It was a devastating loss for myself and John’s sister and her family. Lots of people asked why I was working and all I could say was, what else can I do?
“It was a defining moment and such a horrific loss that work definitely really did help me and seeing people survive Covid on the wards, I was so pleased for them.
“I didn’t feel any bitterness, I was just glad some people were making it through this virus.”
Mrs Hewitt became a nurse in 2019, at the age of 55, after a 30-year career with the police.
She worked at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley before taking up a role in international policing with the Home Office, and was sent to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia as one of 55 female instructors training the first women to be allowed to join the police there.
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She is now a dermatology staff nurse at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria. She found out seven days ago that she had been given the medal.
“I got a very nice call from the Cabinet Office saying the Queen had approved the BEM for my service to the NHS during the pandemic. It was some moment sitting in the car by myself,” she said.
“It’s been extra special, however very bittersweet because my husband is not here to share in such an achievement. He would have been super proud of me and he would be absolutely delighted that my professional life was being honoured.
“When I graduated, he just loved the pomp and ceremony at the graduation. I know that on the day when I receive the medal at Holyrood Palace he will be with me in spirit.”
Prof Angela Wallace, NHSGGC executive nurse director congratulated Mrs Hewitt, saying: “I would like to express my warm congratulations to Maria for this honour.
“Maria’s achievement is also proof that it’s never too late to take up a career in nursing, and I hope her story inspires others to make the switch into this wonderful job.”
The Covid effort was recognised across the honours list.
‘Commitment and dedication’
Prof Azis Sheikh, the chair of primary care research and development at the University of Edinburgh, will become a Sir – for services to Covid-19 research and policy.
OBEs for services to the Covid response were awarded to Dr Noha Elsakka, a consultant at NHS Grampian, and Dr Stephen James Cole, an ICU doctor at NHS Tayside.
Dr Cole said: “The last two years have been career-defining for everyone working in intensive care in Scotland.
“This award is gratefully received and is testament to the close collaboration, commitment and dedication of the entire intensive care team not only within Tayside, but across Scotland.”
A man who set up a website to help people understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic was shocked to find out he had been made an MBE.
John Frace, 27, translated often complicated and hard-to-read data sets about hospital admissions and deaths into easily understandable numbers.
“Basically it was from the very first day there wasn’t really any data and just little news articles the government were putting out about the latest figures, so I thought I would just keep track on it so there was a more organised way to see it”, the University of the Highlands & Islands, Argyll student said.
“I was sharing that online for a little bit and someone recommended that I should make a website so you could bookmark it and visit it every day, so I did that, and it grew quite substantially from there.”
‘A bit of fun’
Since then, his TravellingTabby.com coronavirus tracker has had millions of hits, showing statistics for Scotland as well as the whole of the UK, and becoming a vital resource for both the public and NHS workers alike.
Mr Frace has been rewarded for services to public health communication during Covid-19, in recognition of how important his data hub has become.
“It was just something I did for a bit of fun at the start but there was a point, maybe six months into it, where I was getting a lot of messages and realising how many people were actually using it,” said Mr Frace, who lives in Dunoon, Argyll.
“People were not just looking out of interest, but they were going on to make risk assessments about how they behaved which would affect their health and their family’s health.”
The website shows graphs of everything from vaccinations administered and infection rates, to the number of people in hospital and how many people have ever tested positive for Covid-19.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated all the Scots who have been recognised in the Birthday Honours List, which she said “illustrates the outstanding contributions of the people of Scotland who have made a difference to their communities, throughout the country and beyond”.
She added: “The honours highlight their exceptional service to the people of Scotland.
“I am pleased to see that those individuals who worked against the coronavirus pandemic, its far-reaching impact and those working for our recovery, have been recognised. I know we are all incredibly grateful for their selfless actions and it’s right that their outstanding efforts have been acknowledged in this way.”
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