Colleagues spring surprise for doctor forced to miss daughter’s first birthday

A doctor forced to miss his daughter’s first birthday due to the coronavirus pandemic said he was “blown away” by the support of his colleagues after they surprised him with a party at the hospital to help celebrate.

Dr Rory Nolan, 29, hasn’t seen his wife, Catriona, 26, and young daughter Francesca in more than two months after they made the decision to temporarily live apart so he could continue working on the front line of the pandemic.

Instead of being able to share Francesca’s birthday with her, he spent it working at a Manchester hospital.

However, his colleagues stepped in to make sure the day was memorable.

Dr Nolan told the PA news agency: “My biggest fear when the girls moved out was missing her birthday. I didn’t allow myself to think about it until a couple of weeks ago when it was clear we would be apart.”

He continued: “Knowing we were having a Skype birthday lunch, the night before, a colleague brought in a professionally made, custom cake for me to have at the same time as Francesca had hers.

“But it didn’t stop there, I arrived into work to balloons, banners, personalised ‘Francesca’ bunting, cards, presents and so much love and kindness from my A&E colleagues and others from all around the hospital.”

Later that evening he called Dominos for a takeaway, but when they found out the occasion they refused to accept payment — donating a stack of pizzas to the medical staff instead.

Dr Nolan has also missed seeing his daughter learning to stand independently and talk, after Catriona, a primary school teacher, moved from Manchester to Gloucestershire to stay with her parents.

He said: “Being apart from my little girl on her first birthday is something I won’t be able to get back, but I will always look back on the day with fond memories.”

While being at home alone does get lonely, Dr Nolan said he knew he had to separate from his family so he could keep them safe during the lockdown.

As he continued with his family isolation, he pleaded with members of the public to stay home so they can be reunited soon.

“As a family, we are not alone in being separated,” he added.

“I work in a small hospital and in a small A&E department, and I am one of many who has isolated from their family.

“We are not heroes, we’re just doing the job we’re trained to do, but if this story can stop just one person going out when they don’t need to then I’ll be happy.”

I had ordered some @Dominos_UK for the evening and when they found out about the reason they refused to accept payment. Thank you Domino’s Macclesfield so much 6/11

— Rory Nolan (@RXNolan) May 9, 2020

Dr Nolan shared his experience on Twitter, where it quickly went viral. Soon, people from around the world were wishing Francesca a happy birthday.

But he used the opportunity to warn “Covid is not over”.

“Yes, restrictions might be reducing in the coming days, but this is not over. Please, I want to see my girls soon, I want to give my one-year-old a hug that I was last able to give her when she was 10 months old,” he said.

“But even more so, I don’t want to be calling your family, or any other, to say a loved one is very sick or dying. Every call is heartbreaking: ‘I’m sorry I’ve had to tell you this way, we will look after them, please stay safe yourself’.”

Mrs Nolan, a teacher, has returned from maternity leave and begun working remotely during the lockdown, helped by her parents and brother who assist in looking after Francesca.

She told PA: “Francesca’s favourite person in the world has always been her daddy from day one and we also knew it would mean leaving Rory living alone in Manchester.

“Luckily Rory’s family live close by so have been able to go shopping for him, cook him meals and have our nieces draw him pictures.

“It has been difficult to count down when we can see each other again, as we have done in the past when Rory has travelled with work.

“But currently there is no date set for when we can all be together as a family. That’s been difficult to come to terms with.”

Nonetheless, she said the support following Rory’s tweets had blown the family away: “It has been an emotional time anyway and I have shed many an extra tear at it all.

“Luckily, as Francesca is so young, she is rather oblivious to a global pandemic but we cannot wait to tell her, as soon as she understands, how much everyone cares.”