‘Kev’s Wheels’ area opens at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Health professionals at Doncaster Royal Infirmary (DRI) have officially opened the ‘Kev’s Wheels’ area of the hospital, following a fundraiser in memory of a much-loved colleague who sadly passed away in April 2020 following a brief but brave battle with COVID-19.

On Easter Sunday of last year, Kevin Smith, a beloved colleague at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH), passed away following treatment for coronavirus. A Plaster Technician at Doncaster Royal Infirmary and a valued and respected member of the team since 1983, Kev, as he was known to friends, cared for thousands of patients throughout his career. So well-known and thought of was the Doncaster resident that he was often stopped and thanked whenever he was out and about by those he had so expertly patched-up, potted and plastered.

Following the announcement of Kevin’s passing, thousands of colleagues across DBTH came together and clapped for him for one minute. This was in addition to the countless messages left on Facebook, describing him as the town’s ‘very best pot man’ amongst other heartfelt tributes.

Channelling her efforts into a worthwhile project, Diane Smith, Kev’s wife, launched a Just Giving appeal in early May in her husband’s honour, to raise money for much-needed wheelchairs at the Trust. In just a few hours she had smashed her original target of £5,000, ultimately raising more than £17,000.

Speaking about the fundraising campaign, Diane said: “Kev spent many years in plaster due to a congenital abnormality of his lower leg, and in 1982 took the decision to have it amputated. From a very early age he knew exactly what it was like to experience mobility problems.

“It was with this in mind that I decided to ask for donations in memory of my husband which were put towards the cost of new wheelchairs for DBTH. Kev was always complaining he could never find wheelchairs for patients and when he did he always said that they had a mind of their own.

“Over the years this Trust has been good to our family, so the least we could do in Kev’s memory is raise as much money as we could so patients and staff have access to a wheelchair wherever and whenever they need one.”

With the money raised, colleagues at the Trust worked with Diane to create a special space reserved for wheelchairs, as well as with the procurement department to purchase a number of new chairs, each of which has been badged with the ‘Kev’s Wheels’ brand.

The area, which is just opposite the Fracture Clinic, Kevin’s former place of work, and is now complete with a rainbow motif and dozens of new wheelchairs ready for patients to use. The facility was opened by Diane, accompanied by friends and family, as well as colleagues of Kevin on Monday 28 June.

Richard Parker OBE, Chief Executive at DBTH, said: “Throughout the past year we have experienced some truly heart breaking times, and the loss of Kevin so early in the pandemic was felt deeply within our Trust.

“However, from these moments of immense sadness we have also witnessed the kindness of our communities, as well as the desire for us all to collectively pull together to do the right thing, look after one another and send COVID-19 packing from our towns, villages and streets. And this, for all of the sorrow we have felt, has been truly heart-warming.”

“On a personal note, I am so full of admiration for Diane, and her wider family, who have dealt with their loss with such incredible grace and strength. The area that her efforts has helped to create looks fantastic, and I am confident it will provide a real benefit to our patients, and also to colleagues within their working day. On behalf of all at the Trust, I want to share my thanks to Diane, her friends and family, as well as everyone who has donated to make Kev’s Wheels a reality.