A HOSPITAL scientist has started a campaign to send “boxes of love” to colleagues fighting Ebola in West Africa.

John Radcliffe Hospital biomedical scientist Sandra Richards, 41, came up with the idea with friend Kerry Wilde to send goodies to colleagues in Sierra Leone.

The scheme will send boxes full of sweets, biscuits, Christmas decorations and books sent to scientists and military personnel in the country.

Mrs Richards said her scheme was a way of reminding her biomedical scientist colleagues out in the field that “they were being thought about.”

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She received a box of gifts herself while serving as a driver in the Royal Logistics Core in Northern Ireland, in 1992, which served as inspiration.

“It was this box of goodies and other useful items, and it even had some Christmas lights in it which I kept up until May.

“I remember thinking it was just so nice that someone had taken the time to send it to me.”

Military personnel and scientists are in Sienna Leone fulfilling a range of roles, but Mrs Richards has said she wants to help biomedical scientists especially and has asked the public to help.

The scientist and mum-of-two from Witney, said: “There was a call for biomedical staff, as well as NHS staff, because you need biomedical scientists to diagnose ebola.

“We have colleagues in microbiology upstairs who are out there involved in diagnosing Ebola.

“A good number are from here but people forget about the pathologists, even though they are the unsung heroes of diagnosis.”

Mrs Richards, who has worked in the JR’s cellular pathology laboratories since 2002, is not needed herself because she works in a different field of biomedical science.

But more than three quarters of all medical diagnoses rely on laboratory tests and in the JR some six and a half million are carried out annually.

Mrs Richards said groups of 16 biomedical scientists have been voluntarily travelling to Sierra Leone for periods of about four to five weeks.

It is where the devastating outbreak of Ebola first took hold earlier this year.

The deadly virus has claimed 5,700 lives, Oxford University said this week, as scientists continued to work to develop a vaccine.

Her scheme has been promoted by the IBMS, the professional body for biomedical scientists in the UK, of which Mrs Richards is a council member.

She added: “So far the reaction has been great.

“I only came up with it two to three weeks ago, so I’m amazed at how big it has become.

“It’s just about putting a smile on someone’s face and letting them know they are being thought about.”

To contact Mrs Richards and Ms Wilde about sending a box, email opgiftbox@gmail.com. Packages can be up to 2kg. The Christmas post deadline for Sierra Leone in December 12.

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