Andy raises £5k for hospital staff after Covid claims his mum's life

March 04 2021

A KINGS Oak Academy teacher who lost his mother to Covid has raised more than £5,000 to thank staff at Southmead hospital.

Andy Marshall-Aherne, 36, wants the money to be used to support the wellbeing and
mental health of nurses and doctors working tirelessly at the hospital.

Christine Marshall, 68, was treated on a ventilator in the intensive care unit for 18 days but couldn’t be saved.

Her whole family caught the virus at new year but only Christine, who was healthy with no underlying conditions, became ill enough to be hospitalised.

Within days of catching Covid she was unable to stand or move, was fighting for breath and had a temperature of 40C. After being rushed to Southmead hospital she developed secondary pneumonia and a lung infection.

Andy, from Lyde Green, said the care and compassion his family received from the hospital was exemplary.

He said: “Despite the fact the hospital was so full, the staff never made you feel rushed.

“It was reassuring to see the patients being cared for so well. It was busy yet all the staff were calm.

“At the end my dad and I were able to be with my mum at the hospital.

“The staff even made some handprints of my mum to give to my children to remember her by.”

Christine’s grandsons George, seven, and Jacob, four, pupils at Blackhorse school, are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their beloved Granny, who devoted hours to baking with them at her home in Coalpit Heath.

Andy said: “We’ve been to see my dad, Richard, because he’s on his own for the first time after 40 years of marriage. The boys saw my mum’s car outside and couldn’t understand that she wasn’t there too.

“They chose a flower arrangement that looked like a cupcake for her memorial because that’s what they associate with her.”

Andy raises £5k for hospital staff after Covid claims his mum's life

Andy, a former pupil at The Ridings in Winterbourne, began his fundraising when his mother was admitted. Despite not being a regular runner, he vowed to run 10k every day until she came home. He began pounding the pavements in Emerson’s Green and Downend during the dark, winter evenings and ran well over 100 miles before completing a final run on the day she died. Since her death, he has been amazed that 300 people have contributed to the fund and left kind messages for him and his family, including their memories of his mother.

Christine was a headteacher for 30 years before setting up a school improvement business and carrying out voluntary roles for schools. She also spent time volunteering for Bristol charity CCS Adoption.

Andy said: “I was so proud of the work she did and it inspired me to go into teaching myself.

“She was so supportive when I was growing up. I swam competitively for Southwold swimming club in Yate, then later for Gloucester County, and every Saturday she would give up her day to drive me around to competitions and watch me.

“I used to speak to her all the time and her death has left a huge hole in my day-to day-life.”

Instead of a standard funeral, Andy and his brother, Nick, organised a celebration of Christine’s life. The 30 permitted guests were asked to wear bright colours and many more people attended via video link. In the evening friends and family were asked to light a candle in remembrance and listen to music by Coldplay, Christine’s favourite band.

They’re hoping to organise a bigger celebration in July, on what would have been Christine’s 69th birthday.

Andy was given compassionate leave before starting back as assistant principal at King’s Oak Academy and received supportive messages from fellow members of staff and the CEO of Cabot Learning Federation, which runs the school.

He said: “The school has been amazing. Even though I only started there last September it feels like I’m part of a family.

“I’ve also had lovely messages from staff and former pupils at Merchant’s Academy where I worked before.”

Watermore primary school in Frampton Cotterell, where Christine was a governor for four years until she died, said she would be greatly missed.

Deputy head Chris Hotchin said: “She has been a huge support to the school, helping to drive improvements and supporting teachers and leaders in a range of subjects.

“Most importantly, though, was that she was a champion of the children and the staff. She always had the wellbeing of the whole team at the heart of the things she wanted to do and constantly ensured that plans for the school had everyone’s interests at the forefront.

“She was great at asking the important questions and supporting staff throughout her time here. Both her expertise and care will be greatly missed.”

Andy said he’d agreed with the Southmead Hospital Charity that the funds would support the wellbeing of the frontline staff he’d seen working so hard with Covid patients.

He said: “They have been working at this level for a year and must be exhausted. My husband, Craig, works at Royal United Hospital in Bath and I’ve seen how hard things have been for him and his colleagues. I hope this goes some way to saying thank you for the amazing care they gave my mum.”

Andy’s fundraising page is at justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-marshall-aherne