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East London NHS staff describe ‘unforgettable’ Olympic night

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More than 30 nurses and staff from East London NHS Foundation Trust took part in the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday evening.

Matthew House, a primary care liaison nurse, described the experience of the last few months as “a rollercoaster”.

He said: “What a show to be involved in and what a night. [I] was trembling with nervousness as we waited to enter the stadium. Then on entering the stadium, the roaring spectators got louder as we danced with [the] beds and children.

“Suddenly the difficulty remembering the routine was gone as the crowd joined us with their pixel lights and roared back their delight,” he said. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Trustwide research manager Karin Albani said: “Having already done three dress rehearsals – two with full audiences – I didn’t expect to feel nervous, but I did have butterflies. 

“The atmosphere at Eaton Manor, where most of us were getting in costume, was amazing! It felt like a movie set with ladies in Jane Austen bonnets picnicking with glam rockers; coal miners and Carry On nurses posing together for photographs.

“The show itself was probably a lot like that metaphor of a swan – elegant on the surface, madly paddling below with instructions coming through fast and furious on our in-ear radios. Coming into the stadium with all the lights and the sound of the crowd [was] unforgettable.”

“Now it’s time to enjoy the sport and marvel at the much greater achievements of these amazing athletes,” she added.

Jack Moody, a community outreach support team worker in Hackney, said: “I was one of the one thousand ‘Pandemonium Drummers’ in the industrial revolution section of the ‘Isles of Wonder’ opening ceremony.

“[I] felt proud to be part of a production telling the history of the UK – my family were farmers and then miners in Yorkshire, and this transition was their story.

“The next section promoting the hard work of the NHS made me feel happy that we as employees were all being recognised,” he said.

“My ears feel like they are still ringing, I have not been able to sleep because I still feel like I am buzzing from the experience.”

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) contacted the trust to ask for volunteers from the NHS to be involved in the opening ceremony, a spokeswoman told Nursing Times.

She said: “We know of 33 staff who auditioned and were accepted but there may be more.”

Staff had to attend 150 hours of training sessions and rehearsals for the opening ceremony, which began in April.

Those who attended the sessions did so in their own time, but the trust gave everyone involved an extra day’s leave on the day of the ceremony.

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