Coronavirus survivor who lost hands and feet recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours

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Caroline and her beloved dog Duke

Inspirational Bedfordian Caroline Coster, who lost her hands and feet due to complications after contracting coronavirus, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Four people connected to Bedford Borough are on this year’s list, with a Dame Hood, OBE and two MBE’s awarded in recognition of the impact they’ve had on their profession, community and/or charity.

Caroline Coster has received her MBE for services to education in Bedfordshire and to charity in Africa.

Caroline, 58, caught COVID-19 (coronavirus) back in March 2020 which later developed into viral pneumonia and then viral sepsis.

Placed in a coma for a month, Caroline suffered kidney failure and nearly died twice.

When she came out of the coma, her hands and feet were black because of the Sepsis and had to be amputated.

However, Caroline retained her incredible zest for life.

“I’m feeling positive and enjoying life,” Caroline told the Bedford Independent in January this year.

“It does shock people when I say that, but knowing how close I was to death, losing my hands and feet seems a small price to pay,” she said.

Caroline taught at nearby Henlow Academy and also carries out charity work raising money for the Make a Difference Foundation, which supports education in Kenya.

Talking to us about receiving the honour, Caroline Coster MBE said: “I’m so appreciative of the people who nominated me. I still don’t know who it was but I hope to find out soon.

“I was hugely surprised and touched that someone took the trouble to nominate me. Something I never imagined happening.”

With everything that Carline has been through this year, it’s no surprise that Caroline has taken the recognition in her stride.

“The first thing I thought was ‘I don’t know if I can curtsy'”, she said.

Charity work continues

Caroline is continuing her charity work by making bags from old jeans and selling them at her online shop and various events, to raise money for women and children in Utange, Kenya.

This has helped women to set up their own businesses and also supported the building of a new school for disabled children.

But she says this wouldn’t still be possible without “a lovely group of friends” who help.

“They do the things I can’t do, such as cutting and pinning, I sew using my machine and I hand-sew too.

“Fundraising will continue but it will slow down, and I am looking at how I can fundraise in other ways too.”

Caroline in 2018 with Sidi, a lady in Utange who she helped set up a business so she could afford to buy furniture and food for her family. Image: Caroline Coster/www.sewingforutange.blogspot.com

Caroline, who turns 59 on Sunday (13 June) is also enjoying getting out and about now lockdown restrictions are lifting.

“I’m swimming for the first time next week and also visiting Bedford’s cat cafe to see Utange, the cat I named after the village I’ve helped in Kenya.”

Caroline has also been cycling with Bedford Threewheelers, who meet at Mowsbury Park every week and help people with limited mobility continue to enjoy the freedom of cycling.

Read: Coronavirus survivor says “COVID-19 cost me my hands and feet, but I’m so grateful to be alive”

Three others recognised

Two professors at Cranfield University are also on the list:

  • Professor Helen Atkinson CBE FREng, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing, will become a Dame for services to Engineering and Education.
  • Professor Martin Christopher, Emeritus Professor of Marketing and Logistics, will receive an OBE for services to Business, Academia and the UK Economy
Professor Dame Helen Atkinson CBE FREng

Professor Helen Atkinson, was made CBE in the Queens New Year’s Honours 2014 and is a former Vice President and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the highest honour for an engineer in the UK.

“I am utterly surprised and delighted,” she said.

“This is a huge honour. For someone from my background, with both parents leaving school at 16 and as the first in my family to go to University, this is a most amazing thing.

“I am extremely fortunate to have worked with superb teams all the way through my career.

“I really want to pay tribute to all those colleagues, particularly the wonderful ‘This is Engineering’ team at the Academy who have made such an impact and the many dedicated and committed staff at Cranfield University who have worked so hard to serve our students and our industrial partners through the pandemic, building firm foundations for the future.”

Meanwhile, Grace Collins, who is a Leadership Advisor for the Local Government Association will receive an MBE for services to Local Government.

HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis, who represents the Queen in our county added: “This is richly deserved recognition of their significant achievements and service in many different fields and in voluntary work.

“During the Covid19 pandemic, we have seen many more people step up and go the extra mile to help their neighbours and it is enriching to see those people rewarded.

“I offer my sincere thanks and congratulations to all the recipients”.

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