Bereavement - Forever in debt to staff at QE
‘If you’re in an accident make sure you have enough strength to say you don’t want to go to the QE’. Jokes at the expense of our local hospital are commonplace and with a considerable amount of bad press it’s not difficult to see why.
This year alone there have been negative reports in the national press; in January there were stories regarding ward closures due to Norovirus then the failure of the hospital to meet it’s performance and finance targets. Just last month there was criticism owing to the closure of two wards, in spite of being described as a drive to improve efficiency, a patient group stated it was ‘worrying’. I must admit that, whilst a vehement supporter of the NHS as a whole, I shared the fairly negative view of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Until a month ago.
On October 31 my beautiful, wonderful, inspirational mum, Sue Wealthall, died at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It is impossible to convey, either on paper or through speech, how unbearably painful the loss is. Our family has lost its centre, its heart and soul and it is hard to conceive how any of us will carry on life without her truly unconditional love, support and strength. She was, and will always be, beautiful in the true meaning of the word – her smile lit up even the darkest of days and her very presence made everything better, all things seem possible. As anyone who has lost someone they love more than life itself will know, nothing can prepare you for the horror that is grief, especially when the loss is of someone who was so much alive, had so much for which to live. Our mum never gave up, her body gave up on her and there was nothing that anyone could do about that cruel, excruciatingly unfair fact.
The other fact however, and the reason I am writing this, is that the awe-inspiring staff of the Medical Assessment Unit, Critical Care Unit and surgery teams at Queen Elizabeth Hospital did everything possible to save her life and keep her with us.
It could be argued that this is simply their job, that is what they are trained for and paid to do. However, what our mum, and we, experienced was way beyond the duty that comes with a ‘job’. Every single member of those teams treated mum with the highest possible standards of commitment, excellence, care and dignity and somehow never treated her like ‘a patient’. She was properly talked to, shared jokes (which she continued to do to the very last moments) and was Sue, our mum, in every respect. However, the staff exceeded any normal expectation; the care, compassion and empathy shown to us through the five days we spent there with mum was also extraordinary. Their understanding of our need to ‘camp out’ in the relatives’ room, their tolerance of constant questions and ‘double checking’ and the overwhelming kindness shown surpassed any job description.
All the staff were exceptional. The orderlies in the MAU who kept mum clean and comfortable and who never walked past us without a word, a smile or the offer of a cup of tea. The junior doctor whose aura exuded care and calm and in every way defined the word ‘humane’.
The surgeon whose actions saved her life to give us another two days with her – as we said to him, how do you say ‘thank you’ for that? The many nurses in both units who worked tirelessly to do all they could to keep mum, and us, comfortable. The second surgeon, whose face showed genuine pain and remorse when he had to tell us that no more could be done.
The list could go on and on but it is essential that I give particular mention to the nurse who was with mum on her final day. The standard of care she gave was second only to the remarkable person she is. The mother of stepchildren whose husband serves in Afghanistan who also completes lengthy shifts in the most stressful and potentially, painful, environments would make her special enough. However, when mum had to go into emergency surgery again, we all gathered round talking and joking with mum. As an obsessive Liverpool fan, we knew she needed the songs to bolster her never failing mental strength so we sang Fields of Anfield Road and You’ll Never Walk Alone – I glanced up and this amazing human being was monitoring the drips etc with tears streaming down her face. How extraordinary a person do you have to be to choose that as your job, your daily life?
Once mum was in surgery this nurse came out to see us and hugged me as she brushed away my thanks saying ‘it’s the best job in the world’. We found out the next day that she had stayed with mum talking to her until the anaesthetic took effect. Again when we tried to thank her she dismissed it saying ‘I’d want to know that the nurse who had been with my mum would stay with her’. Such empathy cannot be taught but we will be thankful every day that such people exist. We only met this nurse, and all the other staff, for a very short period but the memory of their care will stay with us forever. There is so much criticism of the NHS and, in the past, of QE specifically. Clearly there will be mistakes in an organisation as large as the NHS, and indeed in a hospital as big as QE. However, we are, as a nation, unbelievably lucky to have the NHS and I felt it is essential that the people of King’s Lynn hear just a small insight into what goes on every day in the hospital that we, as a community, should be proud to have.
Whilst we as a family must continue to battle, minute-to-minute, trying to work out how to survive this, we are so grateful to know that during the time mum had in hospital she received the very best care possible – which is exactly what she deserved.
To the staff of QE, thank you. If only there were better words.
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Weather for King's Lynn
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 10 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North