BARNSLEY Hospital’s ‘heroic’ intensive care team were bestowed with the Freedom of the Borough award last week - and became only the second group in the town’s history to be given the honour.
Representatives from the ICU, including lead nurse Leanne Battley, attended the ceremony at Barnsley Town Hall last Thursday, receiving their honorary title for their care for families through Covid.
Freedom of the Borough is a tradition that goes back to ancient times where the recipient received various privileges within the town.
Staff told the Chronicle that the pandemic has given them an unbreakable bond due to their harrowing experiences since March 2020.
Leanne said: “Covid, over the last two years, has really been the most challenging time in all our careers - with government guidelines we had to double capacity on the unit quickly.
“To receive the award was the most amazing morale booster for the whole team, and attending the ceremony was one of the most humbling of days.
“There was not a dry eye in the chamber when we were presented with our award.”
Leanne brought the award back to the unit, where a special celebration took place for those who could not attend the ceremony.
The sheer physical effort ICU staff made - working long hours in full PPE - was hailed by Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton.
He added: “There is no higher award or recognition that we as a council can bestow and it is a title not awarded lightly.
“I’m sure everyone will agree that all on the ICU are more than worthy of this honour with their varied and outstanding contributions and services to our borough.
“On behalf of myself, the council and all our residents, I’d like to thank and congratulate them.”
Staff said the psychological impact of the last two years ran deep across the team too, with the burden of feeling like ‘everything is about Covid’ and there being no escape from it.
They also had to shower and change every time they left the unit to go home to their families, with some staff crying with the fear that they could pass the virus onto their children.
Despite this, the team are immensely proud of the high standards of work they completed.
Leanne also emphasised the sheer volume of community support the team receive.
“It’s just been amazing - even though people suffered due to their own personal devastation, we received so many thank you letters from families and schoolchildren.
“Local businesses sent us takeaways and even beauticians were sending us moisturisers to help with wearing PPE all day.”