Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
OBE joy for Helene
Glenmavis resident Helene Marshall celebrated the new year with a prestigious royal award as she received an OBE in the New Year Honours List.
She was recognised for services to maternity education in Scotland, after a 40-year career which has seen her lead the training of hundreds of medics across the NHS in caring for pregnant women and their babies.
Now she is looking forward to a palace presentation later this year – a memorable experience recently enjoyed by Chapelhall paramedic Araf Saddiq as he collected the Queen’s ambulance medal (see page 8) in a ceremony at Windsor Castle.
Airdrie resident Helene Marshall earned a royal seal of approval as she was appointed OBE in recogntion of her four decades of distinguished service to maternity care and education.
She has been inundated with messages of congratulations since her honour was announced in the Queen’s new year list, and is now looking forward to a palace investiture later this year.
First, though, she had to keep her honour secret for more than a month before she and husband Tom were able to share the surprise with adult children Hamish, Sarah and Iona at a special party on Hogmanay.
Helene told the Advertiser: “The response has been fantastic – it was a nice surprise for the family when I told them and then I had hundreds of calls, messages and social media comments and retweets, which was really nice.
“My phone was so busy on new year’s day as people found out that I had to put it in another room for a while!
“I’m really delighted, especially to have heard from so many different people; I was congratulated by somebody who said they did their very first maternity delivery with me, and I’ve had lots of nice messages from ambulance colleagues and others I’ve helped train over the years.”
Helene trained as a nurse in 1977 – working her first ward shift on Christmas Day that year – and then specialised in midwifery, training at Glasgow’s famous Rottenrow maternity hospital and qualifying in 1982.
She then spent several years working in Zambia; where she met her future husband, Tom, a fellow Scot and a teacher who worked at Airdrie Academy and Caldervale High after the nowmarried couple returned to Scotland and set up home in Glenmavis 30 years ago.
After another period working at Rottenrow, Helene worked as a community midwife while raising her young family and then moved into various senior clinical roles including risk and practice development.
She then took up roles in maternity education, serving for the past 13 years as director of the Scottish multi-professional maternity development programme – which she developed from the outset and which now provides training for around 1800 medics each year.
It sees health professionals, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, GPS and more, learning and updating skills for maternity scenarios and paediatric emergencies.
As principal educator for the programme until retiring in May 2021, Helene shared her expert skills and built up a team to run the esteemed courses for health boards across the country.
She said: “We teach maternity skills and things like neonatal resuscitation and high-dependency care to help all staff keep their skills up to date; and we continued through Covid, still reaching health boards all round the country.
“It allows staff to train for obstetric emergencies which don’t often happen but when they do happen, you really need to know what to do and they can practice those skills in a safe environment. The training programme also means clinicians who might be the first people helping have recent maternity skills, such as when it’s a long way to the nearest maternity hospital or specialist team, so that mums and babies have best chance.
“The main work I wanted to do was to be able to make a difference in the lives of women and their babies and families; and I do think that being able to run this programme through NHS Education for Scotland has done that.
“It’s given people confidence in caring for mums and babies, and helped how we work with each other as small groups of people in different roles running through scenarios then understanding each other’s jobs and what little resources they might have.
“We were contacted by a technician who had to deliver a full-term breech baby in her ambulance – which many obstetricians haven’t done – but she had just been on our course and said how she did what she’d learned and it was successful. She was delighted as she said she wouldn’t have known what to do if she hadn’t been on the course; and on another occasion, one GP who came on a course later had to deliver their own baby.”
Helene’s distinguished career also included twice being elected to serve on the board of the Royal College of Midwives, which she did for a total of six years, as well as serving as a trustee of the General Nursing Council in Scotland.
The Glenmavis resident has been an elder at New Monkland parish church in her home village for the past 12 years and took up the challenge of becoming its session clerk last year; and joked: “Everybody there asked at first if they need to bow now!”
She also volunteered for 27 years as an officer with 1st New Monkland Boys’ Brigade, based at the church, and remains an occasional helper; and also contributed as a training officer for the local battalion.
Helene told the Advertiser of her OBE honour: “I’m absolutely delighted and feel very proud that somebody has nominated me and to receive this national honour – it’s a big achievement.
“Lots of people aren’t recognised for the really great work they do, so it’s lovely to have that hard work recognised and to be in a privileged position; it’s fantastic to be able to make a difference, and I’m really looking forward to the investiture ceremony and celebrating this award.”