A NORTHWICH nurse is to virtually row every mile of the River Dee as a way of showing his appreciation to the ICU staff he helped during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Alex Wilson, 38, who ordinarily works as a theatre nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital, was drafted in to help out as hospital admissions increased in April and efforts were focussed on helping those who needed it most.

Having been a nurse for the last 17 years, Alex said he wanted 'to give something back' and the Blue Skies Balcony Appeal, which aims to raise £500,000 to build a garden balcony on the hospitals Intensive Care Unit (ICU), was a cause he thinks would do just that.

"Having that outdoor space would be so important and enable patients to main a sense of orientation as being in ICU for long periods can have an adverse affect on that", he said.

"When you're in an environment like intensive care, you can very quickly lose track of where you are and what time of day it is.

"Delusion and delirium is a real complication for patients for when they've become really ill.

"Being able to take patients outside, like we did do during the pandemic, the benefits are huge.

"There were some days, particularly towards the start of the pandemic, when people found themselves in really sad and pressurised situations.

"The whole point of doing the appeal is because when I was working there, I saw how much of a difference the proposed garden balcony would make to patients mental well being."

Having tasted previous intensive care experience while working for another hospital trust, Alex made himself known following an appeal as the Countess of Chester made plans on how it was going to best respond to the demands of the pandemic.

Alex said: ""My main job is actually in the operating theatres at Chester, but because I'd worked in intensive care previously for another trust, anyone with critical care experience was asked to make themselves known.

"There were some days, particularly towards the start of the pandemic, when people found themselves in really sad and pressurised situations.

"It was very tough obviously.

"But there was a lot of really good team work from the actual nursing team.

"The ICU staff were really accommodating and very kind to me when I worked with them, despite not working with them before.

"So I wanted to try and help them out and give them something back for my working there.

"What the charity wants to achieve will be a huge benefit and make Chester's ICU a wonderful place."

Alex went on to explain how the new balcony could also benefit visitors and staff, saying:

"The trust had to make that horrific decision not to have any visitors, so again, having that break for the patients from the circumstance they were in would be huge.

"Being able to step right out of the ICU onto a roof terrace balcony would offer patients, relatives and staff a nice little place of tranquility."

"It would be a far less intimidating environment for everyone and would be great for offering a space for quiet reflection."

In deciding to do a virtual row of the River Dee, Alex, who had originally thought about swimming it virtually instead, said his wife thought the idea was mad, which spurred him on even more.

He said: "Some of the doctors from the hospital are swimming 5000 kilometres to raise money for the appeal so I gave it some thought and decided I'd row it instead.

"When I told my wife about it, she told me I was stark raving mad, so that kind of spurred me on a bit to be honest."

"Some of the other staff are going to jump out of an aeroplane and do a skydive and there was no way I was going to do that. You couldn't pay me to jump out of an aeroplane.

"I'm not a normal gym type of person.

"I used to do a lot of running when I was younger, but I'm not the most physically active person now.

"Working in an operating theatre, I'm on my feet pretty much all day, every day, plus I like my beer and I like my chocolate."

"Doing it on a rowing machine means I don't have to worry about sitting in a boat on a cold river, worrying about capsizing.

"The amazing people at Total Fitness in Chester have agreed to let me use one of their rowing machines and are going to help out by arranging other people to row alongside me to keep me going."

The launch date for Alex and his virtual rowing challenge is Sunday, September 20.

If you would like to support him and the Blue Skies Balcony Appeal, you can do so by visiting his Just Giving page here.