A BRAVE nurse said it was a “bittersweet” moment to be honoured by the Queen after losing her husband.

Maria Hewitt, from Paisley, has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

It comes after the 57-year-old worked on the Covid frontlines as a vaccinator while battling the “intolerable” grief of losing her husband during the pandemic.

Glasgow Times: Maria and John were very happyMaria and John were very happy

John Hewitt, 53, was the first police officer in Scotland to contract coronavirus and die in June 2020, leaving his family heartbroken.

Maria went back to work just six weeks later for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde as she was determined to “get the country back to normal”.

Now she has been left “shocked” with her royal honour which she said is for everyone who works so hard in the NHS.

Maria said: “Losing John was a really terrible time for me. We were a happily married couple so to lose my husband just left me incredibly sad.

“It was the first variant of Covid that he had so there was no vacinations for him then.

“His death was so unexpected. We thought he was going to make a full recovery but he went into multi-organ failure and passed away.

“There were times the grief was completely intolerable but I got a lot out of giving people the vaccine and protection that John couldn’t get.

“It feels bittersweet now to receive this award, I wish he was here with me to see it.

“I’m overwhelmed by this great privilege to be awarded with the British Empire Medal.

“I was absolutely shocked to find out. You enter the public sector to help people, you don’t expect anything out of it.

“The award is for everyone who worked so hard in the NHS to try and protect as many people as possible and get the country back to normal.”

Glasgow Times: Maria wishes John was here to see her be honoured by the QueenMaria wishes John was here to see her be honoured by the Queen

She only qualified as a nurse in 2019 – at the age of 55 – after deciding on a change of career after 30 years in the police, and began work on Ward 5 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in her hometown.

However, after just a few months in the job she took up a new role in international policing with the Home Office, and was sent to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia as one of 55 female instructors working to train the first women to be allowed to join the police in the country.

While she was there the pandemic hit, and on her return home she joined NHSGGC’s nurse bank, working on Covid wards throughout the area.

But it was at that time that tragedy struck.

The couple had been together for 17 happy years and married in May 2016.

Now Maria works as a dermatology staff nurse at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria, and she says she and all her family are “very, very proud” of the honour she has received.

Professor Angela Wallace, executive nurse director at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, passed on her own good wishes.

She said: “I would like to express my warm congratulations to Maria for this honour.

"Despite the grief of losing her husband, she continued to play an important role in NHSGGC’s effort to protect the public from Covid-19 and I am personally grateful to her and the rest of our staff and partners for their hard work and commitment throughout the pandemic.

“Maria’s achievement is also proof that it’s never too late to take up a career in nursing, and I hope her story inspires others to make the switch into this wonderful job.”