TELLY star Davina McCall knows first hand about the devotion and sacrifice of our NHS heroes.
The Masked Singer panelist — whom The Sun can today reveal will this year host our Who Cares Wins awards — tells of the heartbreaking moment she was told her big sister had just weeks to live.
Fighting back tears in a hospital corridor, she was “scooped up” by a nurse who comforted Davina in her hour of need.
Davina had rushed Caroline to A&E with a suspected stroke in 2012. Then tests revealed she had terminal lung cancer.
Davina said: “We got the very, very bad diagnosis in A&E.
“I had to keep it together for Caroline because she was going through a much worse time than I was but every now and again I’d go into the corridor and have a meltdown.
“This one nurse came out and rubbed my back as I cried.
“She told me to take my moment and then pull myself together and get back in there for my sister.”
Just weeks later, on August 1, 2012, Caroline sadly passed away aged 50.
Mum-of-three Davina will always remember those moments of kindness from NHS staff.
She said: “That empathy means the world, and the nurse and I still remember each other.
“Whenever I’m in A&E after one of the kids has got into a scrape we give each other a little nod.
“That experience is very intense, very bonding — and most of us know that feeling.
“It means everything, really. The love we feel for the NHS is like a bottomless pit.”
And it is why Davina, 53, is “so excited” to be hosting The Sun’s Who Cares Wins awards, which will celebrate the amazing work of health workers, this time taking in the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
She said: “This year, more than ever, we need to celebrate the health service.
“These people have made huge sacrifices that impact on their sanity and safety.
“We’ve heard stories of people that didn’t even get to go home for weeks and months on end, just so they could try to stay clear of Covid so they could go to work and keep us safe.”
Davina admits she had “a bit of a cry” during Clap For Carers nights in the first wave of the pandemic.
Nominate your hero here
Though she is determined not to get too emotional at the Who Cares Wins ceremony, which will air for the first time on Channel 4 in September.
Davina said: “I’m going to read everyone’s stories at home again and again and get all my crying out at home.
“The night is not about me, it’s a celebration of these amazing people. So if I get too emotional I’ll just pinch myself.”
Davina also hopes to honour the incredible vaccine rollout and The Sun’s Jabs Army volunteers who helped to make it such a success.
She said: “I’ve got two girlfriends that became volunteers.
“It’s something that we as a nation can be very proud of.
“It was such an incredible effort to coordinate this amazing vaccine rollout.”
While the fitness icon is excited to be free of Covid restrictions, she also hopes we come out of them “gently”.
She said: “I went to the supermarket this morning and when I went to the exit to pay I thought, ‘This looks really weird’.
“An employee explained that all the plastic dividers had gone, and it felt amazing. Everyone was still wearing their mask and that felt good.
“So many people are scared of everything coming back so we should be cautious of that and exit softly.”
Davina — who recently highlighted the realities of the menopause in Channel 4’s Sex, Myths And The Menopause — hopes to celebrate the whole of the healthcare service during the awards.
She said: “Think of the porters and cleaners.
“The cleaners during Covid have had to work so hard to step up everything and keep on top of coronavirus, as well as MRSA.
“There are so many important cogs in this enormous machine.”
She knows it is easy to take the NHS for granted.
Davina’s ex-husband Matthew Robertson, 52, has family in America and she recalls they were “amazed” at the concept of free healthcare.
She said: “Whenever they visit, they never can quite believe we can just go to hospital and not have to think about it.
“When you hear it from someone else’s mouth when they say, ‘Oh well, my God, if you don’t have insurance in America then you’re stuffed’.
“Most of us, very fortunately, have grown up with the NHS in our DNA.
“Sometimes it’s easy to forget everything they do for us, but this year kind of jolted us into this massive wave of gratitude for the NHS.”
And Davina knows more about the NHS’s inner workings than most. In her 2018 ITV show A&E Live, she reported from a working front line.
She said: “The thing that struck me the most was the brutality of 12-hour shifts. When you’re in medicine it’s very, very intense.
“Not just in A&E, even on wards.
“There’s always stuff going on. You’ve got to be on it.
“These are people’s lives we’re talking about.
“I talked to everybody working about their fitness, asking them how they look after themselves physically, because that’s such a gift to my mental health. It helps me decompress.
“It’s so hard, because you basically have four hours to get home, have a bath, have a shower, watch the telly then sleep — then it’s back to work again.
“The pace of A&E is so fast. These people come in, they are looked after and as soon as they’re not an emergency they leave A&E to go home or move to a ward.
“I often thought, ‘Are these people OK? Where did they go? What happened to their family?’ But A&E is just non-stop emergencies and I guess they just don’t have time to think about all of that. It’s a crazy situation where you just don’t get to see the afters.”
She also knows the humility of those on the front line, adding: “They often think they’re just doing their job but to us mortals it’s everything.,”
NHS Charities Together
THE Sun is partnering with NHS Charities Together to celebrate our health heroes at the awards.
Its CEO Ellie Orton said everyone will have reason to thank NHS staff and volunteers — especially after the past 18 months.
She said: “I have been completely humbled by their response since the pandemic started and remain in awe of the work they continue to do.
“The care, commitment and skill they provide is overwhelming, and something to be truly celebrated.”
Last year our generous readers raised more than £1million to get vital support to staff.
Ellie said: “It has been an honour to be able to help by distributing funds raised thanks to the amazing generosity of the public — including Sun readers.
“That money is now supporting staff and volunteers at what continues to be the most challenging time in the NHS’s history.”
But Ellie warned: “This crisis hasn’t passed and those same NHS staff and volunteers are bracing themselves for the next challenge.
“That’s why it has never been so important to celebrate and give recognition to those who routinely go above and beyond to protect the rest of us.
“You can show your appreciation for them through continuing your support for NHS Charities Together.”
New 999 reward
OUR brilliant first responders have been on the front line during the pandemic – and it’s time to say thank you.
We are launching the 999 Hero award to celebrate the incredible work of our emergency services.
That includes ambulance workers, police, fire service and air ambulance personnel.
Other categories you can vote for include the Young Hero gong – won in 2019 by Ronnie Musselwhite.
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