April 2020

Leeds Paralympian on the NHS frontline


For many athletes, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics put their dreams of sporting success on hold for another year.

But for Kim Daybell (Medicine 2018) it meant an opportunity to help those who needed him the most, as he joined the NHS frontline in the fight against coronavirus.

A two-time Paralympian and a key member of Team GB’s Paralympic table tennis squad, Kim was due to compete in Tokyo this summer. But instead of stepping up his training for the Games, he is stepping onto the NHS frontline.

“I was working part time as a junior doctor, part time table tennis ,” says Kim. “The plan was to finish my Foundation Year and then start with table tennis full time in preparation for Tokyo. That’s when COVID-19 hit, the Paralympics were postponed, and they asked if I’d come on the full-time rota, which I did.”

Of course, for many athletes – Kim included – the postponement had serious implications. “Obviously people might say ‘well they just have to wait a year’, and it’s true, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. But I can appreciate the difficulties athletes are facing now. A year is a long time in sport, especially in the Paralympics where athletes have deteriorating conditions. There’s a lot of stress and pressure in the build-up to this year, and it’s difficult for that to just dissipate.

“I was lucky to be in a position to fight back. I wanted to help as much as I could – we join the health service for these exact situations, and we have a duty to do our jobs.”

"The main thing is to come together. Be vigilant, be strong, and be safe."

Kim Daybell (Medicine 2018)
Junior doctor and Paralympian

The fight Kim refers to has seen him working as a medical senior house officer managing COVID-19 patients in the Whittington Hospital in North London. “Every day they open up another coronavirus ward, and every day they are filling up. It’s full on.

“The vast majority of the general public are doing the right thing and staying at home. People just need to be clear that social isolation has no caveats or loopholes – you’ve got to do it. We can learn from other countries, and we can see that it’s crucial to prevent our intensive care units from being overrun. It’s a big sacrifice, but it’s just how it has to be.”

Kim has already made his own sacrifices to help the general public. As someone who has witnessed the impact of the virus firsthand, he is well positioned to offer advice on the matter: “The main thing is to come together. Be vigilant, be strong, and be safe."