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Brave nurse who helped Ebola patients faces biggest fear – a graduation speech

An award-winning nurse who spent months in Sierra Leone helping fight the Ebola crisis has overcome her greatest fear yet – giving a speech to graduates at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

Though she withstood searing West African temperatures and daily exposure to the deadly virus, Hannah McReynolds said the experience had “nothing” on delivering an address to students from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, graduating at the last of this winter’s ceremonies.

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The 32-year-old – who was honoured at the event with the title of Alumnus of the Year - said she had worried for days about giving the speech, in which she talked about her experiences volunteering at an Ebola Treatment Centre in the city of Makeni between late 2014 and November last year, and for which she was awarded the Queen’s Ebola Medal last year.

But, in a show of the spirit and strength which twice prompted her to fly out to the stricken country, she overcame her nerves and delivered an inspiring address to graduates at the ceremony, held at The Venue@DMU. She told the assembled graduands that she had learned that, “I am privileged. You are privileged. But what we do with this is instinct and we should always trust our instincts.”

Hannah, who graduated from DMU with a degree in Nursing in 2011 and is now a staff nurse at the Leicester Royal Infirmary A&E department, said she had been honoured to be awarded Alumnus of the Year.

She said: “It was a shock to be given the award. I just hope I can inspire people to act on their instinct. All I did was what I thought was the right thing. That’s it. It’s just about taking the decision to act.”

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Hannah originally volunteered to help with the Ebola crisis in late 2014. She spent Christmas and New Year helping to open and run a 100-bed medical camp in Makeni, returning in January 2015.

But almost as soon as she had returned to work at the LRI, she knew she wanted to go back, that her help was still needed. So in April she flew back to Makeni and began a stint working in the treatment centre which lasted for more than six months.

She said: “I went because I felt I needed to help my nursing brothers and sisters. Working alongside the African national staff was amazing – there were nurses there who were ex-Ebola patients themselves.

“We taught them techniques and we helped treat people with either suspected or confirmed Ebola. You never get use to death and it was very hard to have to separate parents from children when tests confirmed Ebola. But there were survivors and there was hope.”

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Will Richmond, Melanie Ward and Chandni Chauhan all received their MSc in Psychological Well-being and all three of them have secured jobs as a result.

Will, who works for Richmond Pharmacology in Croydon, said: “There is no doubt the MSc has helped me get my job. Definitely. 100 per cent.”

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Melanie, who is working for Springfield Mind, said: “It was a long time coming to reach this day but I am delighted to have graduated with an MSc.”

Chandni, who is working as a health and well-being coordinator for the NHS in Hertfordshire, said: “I am so happy to be graduating. I have made the best friends and the lecturers were really good.”

Will added: “Yes, they were amazing. We have to give a big shout out to Diane, Iain and Roshan. They really were brilliant.”

Zoe Trickett graduated in nursing and has a job in the cardiology department of Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital. She said: “I loved studying for my degree and I have already started work so I’m really happy. The best bit about DMU was making lots of new friends. It feels like you are part of a big family here.”

Posted on Thursday 28th January 2016

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