RETIREMENT plans will have to wait says specialist nurse Michaela Bowden who said she could not leave her colleagues "at a time like this".

The respiratory nurse specialist based at the Royal Bolton Hospital was due to retire at the end of the month, but return to work part time in June. But rather than taking a month off as planned she will supporting scared and vulnerable patients in the current coronavirus pandemic.

“I was going to take a month off as a treat,” she said, “My husband and I had been planning to go on a cruise. But when all this happened, I decided not to have a break. It was a no brainer. I work with great patients and an amazing team. You can’t leave your team at a time like this.”

In the past few weeks she and her team have been supporting patients who are at home in what she calls a “virtual ward”.

Speaking through tears, Michaela said: “These patients are very scared and frightened.

“My heart goes out to them. They are high risk and know they are vulnerable and must stay at home. Through our phone clinics we can check up on them and reassure them.

"They are pleased just to talk but If the patients need medication or a nebuliser, a member of the team will take it to them.

" Our appreciation and thanks goes out to those patients who are doing what the guidance says and keeping safe.

“The respiratory services are at the forefront during the pandemic and we feel a little separated from our ward teams but are immensely proud of them.”

Michaela began her nursing career in 1983 and came to the then Bolton District General Hospital, now the Royal Bolton Hospital, on a ward caring for the elderly. After a spell on Nicholson Ward at Bolton Royal Infirmary, she returned to the General on the Medical Assessment Unit and in 1998 joined the respiratory service, where she has been ever since.

“I just love it,” she said “It is wonderful to be able to empower respiratory patients to manage their own condition.”

Michaela will continue with her work once she goes part time at the end of the month.

But she doesn’t consider herself a hero for giving up her much anticipated break.

“We’re just doing our job,” she said modestly. “This is what we do.”

Michaela is the latest NHS hero to stay on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus while others are told to stay at home.

Consultant Dr Brian Bradley recently came out of retirement to help his colleagues.

He is a Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine.

And Senior Resuscitation Officer Mike Gallagher also put his retirement plans on hold to work at the hospital.