A mother-of-three and former colleague of much-loved Walsall Staff Nurse Areema Nasreen, who died a year ago today after contracting Covid-19, has vowed to “make her proud” after being awarded the first Scholarship in her memory.
Sheila Kerai is over the moon at being chosen and says her colleagues are equally as excited about this opportunity, donating their text books to her and promising to support her through her studies.
Sheila is currently a Clinical Support Worker on the Acute Medical Unit at Walsall Manor Hospital and worked alongside Areema.
“We were like chalk and cheese in that I am quite a boisterous person and Areema was quieter and more reserved but we clicked so well and rubbed off on each other,” explained Sheila, aged 47.
“She absolutely went above and beyond for our patients; particularly those who had no family to be with them. It didn’t matter how busy she was she always found time for them and would try and cheer them up. She was just such a caring and compassionate person and the sort of nurse that everyone should model themselves on.
“We both dreamed of becoming nurses and when I encouraged Areema to start her journey she did the same to me but the timing wasn’t right for me. I was a single mum with three children and they needed me, particularly my youngest. But thanks to this Scholarship in Areema’s memory it’s my time now and I promise I’ll make her proud.”
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust wanted to honour the memory of Areema by helping someone else to achieve their healthcare career goal. The trust’s Professional Development Unit, HR and Well Wishers charity worked together to establish a Scholarship in Areema’s name to financially benefit someone who needs a little extra help to achieve their dream. It is partly funded by the charity and was developed after talking to staff about the most fitting way to remember Areema.
Areema’s sister Kazeema Afzal was part of the judging panel and a unanimous decision was made to award the Scholarship to Sheila. To ensure the Scholarship is tailored to best suit Sheila, she will actually start as a Trainee Nursing Associate in September and will be eligible to step on to year two of the nursing degree programme once that two year training programme has finished.
Sheila said: “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. I will still get my BSc in Nursing but it will take me four years to complete instead of three and my colleagues say they’ll support me all the way which is great. And my children, who are now 28, 27 and 15 are right behind me encouraging me .
“Every time I start my shift on AMU 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.”
Areema’s sister Kazeema said: “This year has been terrible for our family and the pain never goes away – it actually gets worse for us. Losing Areema has been felt by our community too as she was such a positive, wonderful person.
“But we have taken some comfort from her memory and everything she stood for living on through this Scholarship. It is just the best way to show how much she meant to us all. We are really pleased for Sheila, who worked closely with my sister, and know she will make a great nurse at the end of it all, just like Areema.”