By Liz Crudgington
Physiotherapist Kim Steel should have spent her summer enjoying life as a newlywed, with a honeymoon in St Lucia. Instead, she and fiancé James Carroll, who also works for East Kent Hospitals, have been preparing for a mammoth sponsored walk to raise money to support frontline NHS staff’s mental health during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
They will set off next week and plan to walk 350 miles around the southern coast of Britain throughout September, starting from their home in Birchington.
Kim, 35, said: “We love a challenge, and this will definitely be a challenge! It has been something for us to focus on after a difficult year – as well as our wedding being postponed, I should have been setting up my own private practice but that hasn’t been possible because of coronavirus.
“But it’s all a drop in the ocean compared to what other people are facing, with losing friends and family to the virus.”
Kim and James, who is 32 and works for the Trust’s IT team, will be accompanied on their hike by their dog Zelda. They will carry food and shelter with them, stopping to camp wild along the way. Kim will also be teaching pilates classes via video call along the route.
She was motivated to plan the epic challenge after working with COVID-19 patients at the William Harvey Hospital.
She said: “It was a huge change after previously working in a private hospital with orthopaedic patients. I have suffered my whole life with mental health and I really wanted to do something to support others.”
Planning for the trek also helped Kim cope with the pressures of working at the height of the pandemic.
She said: “It was good to have a sense of purpose and to know I was going to be doing something to help colleagues. Working in full PPE wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, and it quickly became normal and just part of the job.
“We were all there to do our best for our patients and to support each other.”
Kim now works with the discharge team at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, helping people to return home. She has been using her days off to train and plan for the trip.
The couple will have food re-supply boxes at Brighton, Southampton and Bournemouth but will carry everything else with them.
Follow their journey here: https://www.facebook.com/Hfhmh/ and donate to the charity Frontline 19 here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/emotional-support-for-all-nhs-amp-frontline-staff