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An autistic teenager has sent almost 700 thank you cards to staff within Glasgow Royal Infirmary as a way to help with his anxiety and reward those on the frontline fight against COVID-19.

Paddy Joyce, 17, from Glasgow, began writing to healthcare staff in mid-January and with the assistance of staff at GRI, has been able to hand-write 663 individually named cards to members of the team. The cards have now been sent to the hospital and the grateful staff are starting to receive their messages of support from Paddy.

Paddy’s mum, Indra, said that he had seen news reports about COVID and the impact on those working in the frontline. Paddy said: “I saw how sad and upset they were on the news. My mum said I should write to someone, so I asked her to find someone and LOTS of people wanted one, so I want to write to everyone.”

And write he has. To date, Paddy, who has autism with significant global development delays, has written more than 1,000 cards and hopes to send more than 5,000 by the end of the year. However, in saying thanks, his mum, Indra explained it helps with Paddy’s concerns about COVID.

“Statistics make sense to him because they are numbers and organised,” Indra added.

“He honed in on COVID death stats and they made him very upset, but he couldn’t stop looking at them. Now, he’ll read them, and they make him determined to write more cards so he can help make the doctors and nurses happy. And because a fair few respond to him, he feels he is making a difference. He now feels he has purpose.”

The first of the cards were opened by staff from the ICU at Glasgow Royal Infirmary with staff from surgery, theatres and recovery coming to express their gratitude too.

Chloe Dacosta, staff nurse in recovery, said: “It’s been a stressful time for everyone throughout the pandemic and it’s little acts of kindness like these that keep you going. It really means a lot and lifts you up when times are tough and reminds us that we’re all in this together at the end of the day.

“To Paddy – thanks for thinking of us and for doing so much hard work.”

Pat Cruickshanks, charge nurse within ICU, said: “This last year has been so different to anything we’ve known and it’s not over yet. We’re still very busy with both COVID and non-COVID patients and gestures like these provide something of a boost to keep us going. I know that everyone in the team and across the hospital is really grateful and I hope, at some point, we all get to meet Paddy to say thanks to him in person. He should be so proud of what he has done.”

Margaret Cooper, an auxiliary within ICU, said: “You sometimes think that no-one else cares or sees what you are going through, so it’s just nice to feel that we’re not forgotten. It’s amazing that he’s thought of all of us and the amount of work he’s put in is just fantastic. I really do appreciate it. He sounds like a very kind young man and I hope we can see him soon.”

Paddy will soon be starting 6th year at secondary school and despite his complex needs, he hopes to follow a pathway which could lead to him working within the NHS.

His mum added: “The responses he has gotten have meant the world to him and now he thinks he might like to work for the NHS.”

Indra thanked KIO Cards for supplying the cards and help with postage costs.

Dr Barbara Crooks, consultant anaesthetist at the GRI, who helped to co-ordinate the huge task of getting names together for Paddy to write the cards, said: “I know this was a tremendous effort from Paddy to write an individual thank you to so many of our team.

“They have been blown away by Paddy’s heartfelt messages which have been quite touching and certainly lifted our spirits.

“Thank you to Paddy and his mum Indra for providing a much needed morale boost. Paddy is a fine example of a very caring young Scot and I wish him all the very best for the future.”

While Paddy has been doing the work at his own pace, he sometimes writes as many as 50 personalised messages each day – and he intends to keep going. While he does, he has one more message for the teams working on the frontline: “Please stay safe while you are saving lives,” he said.

“I love you all.”

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