Duchess of Cambridge praises hardworking ward host who carried on despite heartbreak

·Royal Correspondent
·3 min read

Watch: Duchess of Cambridge praises hardworking ward host in NHS hospital

The Duchess of Cambridge has praised a hardworking ward host who continued her shift at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic despite hearing that her mother was ill in Nigeria.

Kate spent time calling some of the people who were either subjects in or photographers of images which were selected as part of the Hold Still collection, which represented the UK in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

On Thursday, Kensington Palace released a call she made to Gimba, a ward host at Whipps Cross Hospital in London, who was snapped enjoying a lunch break on a particularly stressful day.

Gimba had just heard that day that her mother was ill. But she was more than 4,000 miles away in Nigeria, and with restrictions, Gimba was not able to go and see her.

Despite her heartbreak at the situation, she did not take any time off, saying: "I have to feed my patients."

The picture was taken as Gimba took her own break, eating chicken and rice after feeding 18 patients on the COVID ward.

Kate called Gimba, one of the subjects of the Hold Still images. (Kensington Palace)
Kate called Gimba, one of the subjects of the Hold Still images. (Kensington Palace)

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She told the duchess: "I had a phone call from Africa, because I'm from Nigeria. My mother was very sick."

But she was able to tell Kate: "She is feeling better now. She's at home now."

Kate sympathised saying: "It must be so hard not being able to speak to her and not being able to be there with her. Particularly when everything around you as well is not normal and you really want to reach out to your loved ones."

Gimba said the job was "hard" but added: "it's a job I love to do because the patients need us."

Kate said: "I bet you made their day feel that little bit brighter."

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The two women discussed the food choices which Gimba dishes up, which include Caribbean food, Chinese food and English options. 

Gimba has now worked there for 20 years.

The picture was taken by Hassan Akkad who has been photographing NHS staff throughout the pandemic.

Recalling hearing about the picture of her being selected, Gimba said: "He told me that they selected my picture and you love my picture. They called me, told me, I was so happy. 

"I'm very grateful, thank you so much."

She added: "I'm so excited, I said 'Wow, me!'" 

Handout photo issued by Kensington Palace of pages from Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020, a book of 100 photographs illustrating the past year of the pandemic. Issue date: Sunday March 28, 2021.
The portrait of Gimba, left, from Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020, a book of 100 photographs illustrating the past year of the pandemic. (PA Images)

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Kate told her she loved the "gentle smile on your face despite it being a really hard day" as she praised her resilience. 

Gimba, Kensington Palace said, is hoping to visit her mother soon.

Hold Still was a photography project announced by the Duchess of Cambridge last year and was intended to form a portrait of the nation during the pandemic.

Hundreds of thousands of photographs were sent to Kate and the judging panel at the National Portrait Gallery, and they whittled it down to 100 which has now become a book. Profits go to the NPG and Mind, the Mental Health charity.

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