A frontline NHS worker has raised over £7,000 for psychological support services for NHS staff by swimming in the ice cold River Thames for 28-consecutive days.
Susi Halley, 46, from Teddington, got into the water without a wetsuit to raise funds for Frontline19, 6 February – 6 March, on days when temperatures dipped as low as -1˚.
She said she felt compelled to raise the money after being redeployed to the Family Communications Team during Covid-19, which was set up to allow family and friends to virtually visit loved ones in the ICU during restrictions.
Halley said: “Dealing with that much grief and that much death, it’s been really tough, really challenging. That takes its toll physically and emotionally.”
Frontline19 was set up to offer free and confidential support to all NHS and frontline staff during the pandemic, ensuring help is readily available.
Halley has worked in healthcare since her early 20s, as in the late 90s, after qualifying as a nurse, she worked in infectious diseases with inpatients who were dying of AIDs.
Halley started working as a sexual health adviser in 2007, offering counselling for those struggling after a positive diagnosis.
Through her work Halley has witnessed the improvement counselling can have on someone in their time of need.
She added: “The backdrop of now dealing with Covid and the fact that everyone is susceptible to a virus that seeks a host, whoever that host may be, could perhaps mean people will be more understanding of what HIV is.
“Having that continuity when you’re working consistently with people over a period of time, you also get to enjoy and appreciate the benefits when someone’s made progress and positive changes to their lives.
“The one important thing that will come out of this is that people will understand that mental health is as important as physical health, we need to take care of ourselves and of each other.”
Halley comes from a family of determined individuals; her father was a marine and her mother a nurse. One of her three brothers, an Ironman, came to support her swimming.
“I think my kudos went up quite considerably after he got into the water,” Halley said.
No stranger to fundraising, last year Halley raised £1,500 for The National Emergencies Trust, Coronavirus Appeal, pledging to cycle 980 miles commuting to and from work.
In 2018 she cycled from London to John O’Groats, raising nearly £5,000 for The Prince’s Trust.
Since completing the 28-day challenge Halley has returned to the water at Teddington.
She said: “It’s great for regulating stress and I notice how it helps me reset.
“I am sure it will be part of my repertoire forever more.”
If you would like to donate to Frontline19 you can do so via Halley’s GoFundMe page here.
Featured image: By Susi Halley