A BOLTON woman who lost six members of her own family to Covid has been honoured with a Key Worker award.

Meena Patel was recognised for inspiring both her patients and fellow staff. Meena who is manager at the Monet Lodge Independent Hospital in south Manchester picked up the ‘She Inspires Woman Key Worker of the Year’ for leading her teams through the pandemic.

Despite losing six of her own family members to Covid, Meena continued to support patients with complex needs and her exhausted colleagues. Some days she was spending 24 hours a day with her patients and was unable to see her own family.

Meena said: “As well as ensuring our patients were always kept safe, it was a time of coaching and mentoring staff on their emotional wellbeing, all of whom were physically and mentally exhausted.

“As the leader of the ship, it was always about leading by example and putting others first. I had to reassure everyone that we would come out of the other end safely and that we were all in it together.”

Meena, 51, became manager of Monet Lodge, in West Didsbury, in September 2021 after leading the team at St Andrews Care Home in Barnoldswick through the worst months of the pandemic.

She said: “I got into health and social care 30 years ago because I care about people. It’s not a job, it’s a vocation, and always has been. I started nursing in 1989 and I’ve also trained and worked in social care and management, but fundamentally it’s about the joy on people’s faces, giving people independence regardless of their circumstances and giving them a quality death. That in itself is an honour and privilege.

“My biggest inspiration is my mum, always. She’s a Hindu lady whose parents were originally from India and then they moved to Uganda. She fled from the Idi Amin regime and has faced challenges all her life.

“She got off a plane in December 1970 in an alien country where she saw snow for the first time, she didn’t speak any English and within seven days she had an arranged marriage. The culture shock must have been huge.

“She’s faced so many challenges, she became a divorced single parent to me and my brother when it really wasn’t culturally acceptable, but she’s always been strong and independent.

“She taught me everything and is my strength, my best friend and my constant encouragement. Because of her, I want to give back to the community and inspire other women to achieve their goals in life.”

Rachel Peacock , chief executive of Making Space, which runs Monet Lodge, said: “Meena really is the sort of inspiration we all need to keep going. I’m delighted her dedication has been recognised with this award.”

Meena was joined by her mother during the proud moment.

Meena added: “We were both in tears, my legs were shaking, and when I got back to the table my mum gave me a massive hug.

“Her life was bringing me and my brother up. Even though I’m 51 and my brother is 49, still spends all her time telling people how wonderful we are. Now she has another story to add.

“Being recognised for what I do with the ‘She Inspires’ award is an absolute honour, for both me and my mum."