“People have gone over and above, day after day,” says Michelle Greatorex, reflecting on the life-changing impact of COVID-19 on her NHS colleagues. “It has really pushed us all to the limit. Now you look back and think ‘How on earth did we do that’?”
R31 member Michelle has been in the thick of the fight to control and defeat coronavirus. As a Director of Nursing and Quality with an NHS organisation in the Midlands, she’s part of a team of some 3000 people, including district nurses, hospital nurses and therapists, providing vital care, often at home or in the community, for people with a variety of conditions affecting physical or mental health and learning disabilities.
Finding new ways to maintain those essential services was crucial. In these largely rural counties, where health professionals traditionally spent valuable time travelling to appointments, virtual consultations played a vital role in allowing support for vulnerable people to continue safely. Meanwhile, some of Michelle’s district nurses worked extra shifts at local acute hospitals and there were even staff on standby for Birmingham’s Nightingale Hospital.
Virtual meetings from home have also become a way of life for Michelle. “It’s not unusual to have 12 or 13 meetings a day,” she says. “At the height of it, my husband John would bring me lunch and the food would sit there, untouched. I just wouldn’t have time to eat. In our organisation, we’ve clocked up around six million minutes of virtual meetings.”
More recently, she’s been involved in planning and implementing the workforce vaccination programme locally and is also bringing her experience and lessons learned from the pandemic to the local sustainability and transformation partnership, which is exploring ways to improve and sustain health and health care for the future.
Michelle began her nursing career in the 1980s, going on to become a district nurse herself. As her father was a car mechanic, she grew up around cars and motorbikes and was particularly drawn to convertibles – a love affair that truly began with a British Racing Green MG F. “I blame Mick Hucknall from Simply Red, who had one!” she says. “When I arrived in the MG, it caused great delight among my patients. I love convertibles. There’s nothing like driving with the top down on a bright, cold morning.”
In 1985, during a visit to London, a friend took a photo of Michelle next to a Porsche. Although she wrote ‘My Porsche’ on the back, she never expected to own one and, years later, was unmoved by her first close encounter. “One of my matrons offered me a lift to a meeting we were both attending in her Porsche Boxster,” she says. “Much as I loved sports cars, I said I wouldn’t be buying one. I wasn’t impressed at all – it was noisy and really bumpy.”
But a couple of years later, there was a major U-turn. “In 2012 I was thinking about buying a new car, and John suggested a Porsche Boxster,” says Michelle. “He even found me one locally, a 2008 2.7, in Cheltenham. Driving it was very different to being a passenger – it was amazing.”
She bought the car and enjoyed it for a couple of years before upgrading to a 2012 2.7 981. It would play an important part in some memorable moments, including when she and John drove from the UK to watch the Monaco Grand Prix to celebrate her 50th birthday, a road trip that included the spectacular Route Napoléon in the south of France. “Driving over the mountains, negotiating the hairpin bends, was glorious,” she says.
They had their own F1 tickets for the F1 Monaco Grand Prix but before they travelled, Porsche Centre Tewkesbury arranged for them to have access to the Porsche pits in Monaco after a Prescott trackday with the centre had fallen through. They supported Lewis Hamilton with a Union flag sourced from a local fancy dress shop and saw him win. Says Michelle: “it was a fantastic day and a birthday to remember.”
The Boxster had another starring role when Michelle and John married last year, after 22 years together. It joined John’s beloved Ford Connect van as the wedding cars – complete with blue ribbons to celebrate the couple’s support for Leicester City FC – as they tied the knot at the Three Ways Hotel in Mickleton, near Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds.
There’s a poignant element to Michelle’s passion for Porsche and for life in general. Aged 30, she had cancer and while it was treated successfully, she has been unable to have children. “That’s partly why I love sports cars,” she says. “They’re an indulgence but, in a way, they are also my children.”
The latest member of Michelle’s Porsche family arrived last summer, when after five happy years she finally traded in the Boxster for a black 2013 911 S. “I love it,” she says. “They’re such iconic cars – the look, the noise, the drive. Everyone dreams of owning a 911, though I never thought I would.”
Michelle admits that more than a yearof combating COVID-19 has drained her but she has a couple of holidays lined up this year and plans to retire in 2022, when she turns 55. She’s already giving some thought to the next chapter in her life – and it’s a safe bet that whatever the future holds, a Porsche will be involved.