Express & Star

Walsall NHS staff speak of joy and tears when meeting the Queen

Two men who work for the Walsall NHS Trust have spoken of their "joyous" experiences meeting the Queen, who made them feel like "VIPs".

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Professor Abdul Gatrad receiving his OBE from the Queen in 2002

Professor Abdul Gatrad, a consultant paediatrician at the Trust, received his OBE from the Queen for the work he had done to halve the mortality of new-born babies in the borough, and developing the Paediatric Assessment Unit at the Manor Hospital.

The 76-year-old received his honour from the monarch in 2002 and was impressed by her knowledge and her firm handshake.

“Her Majesty certainly did her research and she was a joy to speak to,” said the father-of two, who was also made Freeman of the Borough of Walsall for his health and charity work.

“She asked me about my work and knew I had written text books and published many papers on paediatric issues in international journals. She was genuinely interested and engaging and did make me feel like a VIP! I also remember her having a lovely smile and a very firm handshake.”

Professor Gatrad, who has worked for the NHS for 51 years and served as Deputy Lieutenant to the Queen, has also had a book published, called Moments in Time: From Postman to Professor and Beyond.

He was the founder of Walsall Against Single Use plastic (WASUP) back in 2019 and this has now achieved global recognition, becoming World Against Single Use Plastic.

Professor Gatrad added: “For me, the Queen upheld the dignity of the crown and the best of British values.

“When anyone talked about the Queen globally – there was just one – our Queen. She was our mother, mother of the nation and mother of the world. Her death has made us all reflect; not only on what she has done for us but on what we can do for others to continue her legacy.”

Garry Perry, associate director of patient relations and experience at the Trust, has met the Queen on three occasions, with his most memorable encounter happening when he was Mayor of Walsall in 2011.

He and Mayoress June Perry, his late mother, were attending the Queen’s Garden Party that year in recognition of services to the community.

“We felt so privileged to be asked and were so proud and excited to be at Buckingham Palace,” Garry said.

Garry Perry and his late mother, Mayoress June Perry, attending the Queen’s Garden Party in 2011

“I remember the Queen was wearing lilac that day and I can honestly say nothing really prepares you for how you’re going to feel upon seeing our monarch.

“Mum and I were singing the national anthem with tears running down our faces. She was standing next to us and we were completely overwhelmed.

“Mum brought us back down to earth a little later when she took her shoes off in Buckingham Palace because they were hurting her and we noticed others started to do the same, possibly thinking it was protocol! Bless her!”

Upon hearing of the Queen’s death, Garry added: “We will never know anyone quite like her again. She was an outstanding example of someone who has truly dedicated their life to their country and exemplifies dedication, community, integrity and responsibility.

“Her loss will be felt all over the world as there are so many people with their own special memories of her. Our thoughts and prayers go to her family and to communities at home and abroad at this time.”