A DEDICATED NHS worker from Halesowen who made the heartbreaking decision to move out of her home to help patients on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic has been immortalised in a portrait.

Donella Russell, who works as a porter at the QE Hospital in Birmingham, moved out of the home in Alexandra Road she shares with her husband and sons two months ago to continue her work at the hospital.

She has been helping patients with Covid-19 and has seen many heart-rending cases of patients passing away and others of hope as she has wheeled some patients she thought would never recover out of the hospital doors to be reunited with their families.

She even celebrated her 50th birthday by working a 12-hour shift - after having the day off but not wanting to sit alone in her hotel room - and suffered a "terrifying" Covid-19 scare when she showed symptoms - but thankfully a test was negative.

Donella, who represented Belle Vale ward for Labour from 2012-2016, has been depicted in oils by artist Cindy Jones from Market Harborough as part of an initiative by artists around the country to immortalise NHS heroes during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Donella said: "The portrait is amazing. I can't believe it - I was so shocked!

"To be away from home has been devastating but my husband has COPD and severe asthma with only 25 per cent lung function.

"At the beginning I was coming home and washing all my clothes straight away but our eldest son is autistic and he was getting upset and worried about his dad, so I made the decision to move out to protect them.

"It's been hard and scary and I have been really frightened at times but it's been the most amazing time - the camaraderie between all the staff from domestic staff to consultants - everyone has been equal and it has been amazing.

"Patients can't have their families with them and many can't speak to them, so we become their family.

"Some of things I have seen have been very hard. I have had to take some patients out of ICU to the mortuary and see them at the end, but then other patients have been so poorly you think they won't survive and you take them for a scan, then a few weeks later I have been able to wheel them out of the hospital doors to their family.

"I have always loved my job and I know it sounds strange, but during the pandemic it's been such a fantastic place to work.

"I feel privileged for the small part I am playing.

"I get emotional about it."

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Initially she stayed in Birmingham University's Edgbaston Park Hotel, but more recently she has been living with her niece 33 miles away in Stafford to protect her husband Mark, 62 and sons Alex, 19 and Cameron, 15, who attends Earls High.

Donella thanked staff at Earls who have been checking in on the whole family. She has collected visors from Earls and Leasowes schools to take to the QE.

The 50-year-old is currently at home for two weeks as she has mild asthma and was signed off work after she started becoming breathless and hot - a Covid test was negative and she can go back to work in a fortnight.

She thinks working for so long in PPE might have caused her breathing problems as she once worked ten hour shifts four days on the trot, but can't wait to get back.

Donella, who has been a porter at the QE for two years after she was made redundant from her previous job, said: "I feel so frustrated not to be there at the moment - I love my job and the fact that I'm able to help others."

Halesowen North councillor Hilary Bills said: “Donella and I were elected together in 2012 and have become real friends.

"Anyone who knows her will recognise that she would put her heart and soul into her job.

"I’m very proud of her and yes, only Donella would end up having her portrait done!!”