Avanti Meadows vaccination centre team surprise one of their nurses with guard of honour at her wedding
A midwife who has spent the past four months helping to administer thousands of Covid-19 jabs in Bishop's Stortford got a big surprise at her wedding courtesy of her vaccination centre colleagues.
Nikki Barker stepped out of her wedding car with her father, Adrian, on arrival at the town's register office last Wednesday (June 16) – where she was marrying Richard Booth, her partner of eight years – to be greeted by around 25 of the Avanti Meadows team in their uniforms.
Nikki, a midwife at Cambridge maternity hospital the Rosie, is a member of the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust vaccination team which was based at the brand new St Michael's Hurst primary school until last week and has since relocated to Bishop's Stortford Football Club's Woodside ground.
"I was blown away by my colleagues coming to surprise me," she told the Indie. "One or two of them had mentioned they might pop down, but it was the whole crew – it was just amazing. I had to take a deep breath and just thought 'Wow!'
"I remember getting out of the car and couldn't catch my breath. I was so moved and trying not to cry. I just held my chest in stunned silence, feeling very emotional.
"The fact they all turned up was such an amazing experience. They stood either side of the entrance at a safe distance forming a guard of honour."
Nikki, who lives with her family in Marshbarns, off Dane Park, joined the vaccination team in February. After a short post-wedding break – the couple will honeymoon when restrictions allow – she returns to work on Tuesday (June 22) to continue delivering the vaccine.
She has juggled working 30 hours a week at the jab clinic with looking after the couple's two sons, Joshua, 6, and Finley, 4, who attend Hillmead Primary School, and maternity ward shift work.
"I've worked throughout the pandemic as a midwife and then applied for a job to help with the vaccinations," she said, adding that the organisation involved in rolling out the vaccine programme had been "incredible" and that it had been an emotional experience.
"It's definitely been a hard 18 months trying to do shift work while looking after two small boys and home-schooling, but it's been such a great experience giving the vaccinations. People have been really emotional and happy and have gone out skipping after their jab!
"It's such a lovely experience because everybody's been keen to be there. You get a few nervous people, but we do our best to make sure it's a good experience – and we have to remember that every time we vaccinate we're one step closer to normality. It's been an amazing achievement.
"The staff are so amazing – I've been blessed working with such lovely people and I cannot imagine my life without them now. I feel truly humbled by them."
Covid restrictions meant a maximum of only 30 people – a close party of family and friends – were allowed to attend the wedding.
Nikki's parents, Adrian and Jeanette, were joined by Richard's mother and father, Jill and Derek, and his children Amie, 22, and Zach, 19. Their younger boys took on the role of ring bearers. Nikki's close friend Nina Hale carried out a reading while friend and fellow midwife Emily Pickering took the wedding photos.
The bride spent the night before the wedding staying with friends, Anna and Clive, who drove them to the register office and then on to Marriott Hanbury Manor Hotel and Country Club near Ware, where they were bathed in glorious sunshine for their reception and where the newlyweds spent their wedding night.
"We had a small gathering – we'll have a party next year – and were lucky to have amazing weather," said Nikki. "I can't wait to see the photos as the sky was so blue!"
Richard, a commercial manager, grew up in Bishop's Stortford, attending Summercroft Primary School and then Leventhorpe in Sawbridgeworth. He is a member of Bishop's Stortford Squash Club.
Nikki grew up in London and spent three years working as a midwife in New Zealand before returning to England and moving to Stortford in 2013. She plans to continue as a midwife while also starting up her own business specialising in complementary therapy for pregnancy and birth trauma resolution.