Galashiels firefighter Flora going on run to thank hospital for help during Covid-19 fight

A coronavirus sufferer is going on the run to thank medics for their support as she spent almost a month laid low by the disease.

Monday, 11th May 2020, 4:19 pm
Galashiels firefighter Flora Johnston.

It’s only been weeks since Flora Johnston, 22, could barely carry binbags outside without being left out of breath after catching the virus, but now she’s running seven miles daily to raise funds for the Borders General Hospital at Melrose.

That’s the distance from her Galashiels home to the entrance sign at the hospital, and Flora, a fashion student and part-time firefighter, is jogging it every day in May, covering just short of 216 miles altogether.

Flora was advised by doctors to stay at home in isolation for almost four weeks after being struck down by the virus but is now fully recovered and has returned to duty at Galashiels fire station and resumed her studies, albeit at a distance, at the town’s Heriot-Watt University campus.

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“I first began to show symptoms of Covid-19 at the end of March and followed advice to stay at home and completely self-isolate,” Flora recalled.

“I got progressively worse, and had a few pretty bad days, so I called the NHS 111 helpline. “As I was still able to breathe well enough by myself, I was told not to go hospital, and instead continued to speak regularly with nurses and doctors at the hospital.

“I had a mixture of bad fevers and a tightness in my chest, would wake up completely exhausted and even the smallest thing such as taking rubbish out to the bin was a real struggle without stopping to catch my breath.

“In the end, I waited it out over 26 long days at home by myself.

“I couldn’t go near the fire station, and with my family at the other end of the country and my flatmate having moved away from Gala after university, it was a tough few weeks.

“It was definitely a frightening experience, and one I’m glad to put behind me, but I was overwhelmed by the support I received from the NHS 111 nurses and doctors at the BGH, the guys at the station who’d check on me and my Borders family down here who reached out.”

That recent support via telephone isn’t Flora’s only reason to be grateful to the hospital as she was also treated there for a fractured elbow and concussion following a cycling accident last year.

“Last summer, I also ended up in A&E at the BGH after I fractured my elbow when I was knocked off my bike and was there frequently to see neurologists with post-concussion syndrome afterwards,” she explained.

“The care I received was brilliant, and I was so well looked after both then and in these recent weeks and months.

“I am also lucky enough to often work closely with our other emergency services in my role with the fire service, and I see how incredibly committed our front-line workers are to helping others.

“Now, I want to give back to my local community and support both patients and staff at the BGH, as they have done for me.”

Flora, born in Elgin in Moray, is raising money for the Friends of the Borders General Hospital charity, and she smashed her initial target of £200 within days, now being up to £830.

“This will equal a distance of 347.2km over the course of the month, whilst conforming to the lockdown rules, of course,” Flora added.

“I initially wanted to try and raise £200 over the course of May, but this was over £500 after only four days. People have been so generous.

“Running just shy of 350km in total will be a challenge, I have no doubt about that.

“I’ve always been a keen runner and was meant to be running the Edinburgh 10km later this month, but this will be something else entirely.

“I feel lucky to be recovered now, and this this will keep me motivated during this difficult time while being able to support a brilliant local charity.”

Originally from the Highlands, Flora moved down here in 2016 for university, joining the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service as a retained firefighter two years later.

“I joined as a firefighter two years ago, and I am delighted that I’ve been accepted to start my postgraduate studies here in Galashiels as it means I can continue with the service,” she said.

“I absolutely love being an on-call firefighter and being able to balance this hugely rewarding and exciting role with my degree.

“I remember when I first told friends and the university, and a few eyebrows were raised because I think there was a worry that I would get distracted or it would affect my grades, but I’ve always been a motivated student.

“I pull my weight, and I know that the more I put in the more I get out, so I wasn’t worried.

“Galashiels is a relatively busy station, and it can be scary and challenging at times, but we have the nicest team and everyone looks out for one another. I feel like I’ve got 10 new dads sometimes!

“You definitely have to be committed to the role while managing your time carefully, especially around exams, but it’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Service area commander Stephen Gourlay said: “Flora is an example of someone who wants to go above and beyond to help people, and her commitment to her local community in Galashiels has been exemplary.

“Flora is one of very few full-time students serving as a retained firefighter anywhere in Scotland and is highly regarded by her colleagues and community.

“We are proud to call her one of our own and to support her fundraising challenge for an important and valued local charity here in the Borders.

“We are also very pleased that Flora is now fully recovered and back on call after a difficult period, and I would like to thank her and all our staff for their unwavering commitment to the service and their communities during this challenging time.”