Covid-19: Walsall nursing scholar pledges to make friend 'proud'

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image copyrightWalsall Healthcare NHS Trust
image captionSheila Kerai said she was "over the moon" about being chosen for the scholarship

The winner of a scholarship set up in memory of a nurse who died after contracting Covid-19 has promised to "make her proud".

Areema Nasreen, 36, died in April 2020 at Walsall Manor Hospital, where she had worked as a nurse just over a year.

The scholarship, which will fund a degree programme, was won by Sheila Kerai, a Clinical Support Worker.

It will allow her to fulfil a dream of becoming a nurse - one she shared with her friend.

"Every time I start my shift on AMU [Acute Medical Unit] I greet Areema by talking to the plaque we have put on the wall in her memory and I like to think she's looking down on me, willing me on," Ms Kerai said.

"She was just such a caring and compassionate person and the sort of nurse that everyone should model themselves on."

Ms Nasreen had hoped to qualify as a nurse since starting at the hospital as a housekeeper in 2003.

image copyrightKezeema Afzal
image captionAreema Nasreen graduated from the University of Wolverhampton and was the first in her family to study in higher education

"Thanks to the scholarship in Areema's memory it's my time now and I promise I'll make her proud," Ms Kerai said.

She will start as a Trainee Nursing Associate in September and afterwards will be eligible to progress to the nursing degree programme.

"The trust has been really flexible and supportive to make the scholarship work in the best way for me and I am really grateful for this opportunity," she added.

The scholarship was developed after discussions with staff about the most fitting way to remember Ms Nasreen.

Her sister Kazeema Afzal, who herself was inspired to become a healthcare assistant, was part of the judging panel.

image copyrightKazeema Afzal
image captionKazeema Afzal, left, said the fund would create "amazing opportunities"

"This year has been terrible for our family and the pain never goes away - it actually gets worse for us," Ms Afzal said.

"But we have taken some comfort from her memory and everything she stood for living on through this scholarship. We are really pleased for Sheila, we know she will make a great nurse, just like Areema."

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