Speaking for Ourselves

Health Heroes on the move

Health Heroes on the move

Daniel Nelson

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Health Heroes on the move

A Syrian refugee filmmaker, a Trinidadian migrant nurse and a British Nigerian woman who set up West Africa’s flying doctor service are among Health Heroes honoured in a new book.

Hassan Akkad came to the UK as a refugee from Syria in 2012, campaigned for the rights of other refugees and at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic volunteered as a cleaner at Whipps Cross hospital in East London.

The book, Health Heroes: The People Who Took Care of the World, reports that in a tweet that went viral, Hassan said: “London has been my home since leaving Syria, and the least I can do is making sure my neighbours and the amazing NHS staff are safe and sound.”

The book, aimed at readers aged 8+, says Hassan thinks of London as his home, and of his hospital work as supporting his neighbours, and helping to keep NHS staff safe.

Roma Bissessar left school at 16 and left Trinidad at 18, heading to the UK to train as a nurse, having never spent a night away from home: “I was very homesick, especially when the summer came.” 

When she first qualified, the book reports, Roma worked in a psychiatric ward, then as a general nurse, where she had “the happiest time ever”. She loved getting to know other staff and working as a team. 

Roma says the best moment of her career was the day she realised she could take blood, understand test results, do CPR and catheterization, and help doctors with other investigations: “That’s when I KNEW I was a responsible nurse.

British-born Olamide Orekunrin was in the middle of her studies to become a doctor when her little sister fell ill while travelling with relatives in Nigeria. Olamide and her family were shocked to discover that there was no air ambulance service in the whole region, and her sister died because they couldn’t get her the care she needed. This sparked Olamide’s determination to create real change, and she went on to set up Flying Doctors Nigeria, the first air ambulance service in West Africa.

The book is packed with true stories of healthcare workers past and present, from all walks of life and from all around the world – from Jamaica’s Mary Seacole, who set up the “British Hotel” in the Crimean War in the 1850s and rode onto the battlefield to help soldiers on both sides, to Mia Noah, an Englishwoman who worked in New York for the Make A Wish Foundation, making wishes come true for critically ill children. 


Health Heroes: The People Who Took Care of the World by Emily Sharratt, £6,99, is published by Simon & Schuster. £1 from the sale of each book will be donated to NHS Charities Together.