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Barts: hearts and faces

Waking wounded
Waking wounded

22 July 2022

Dr S. Pal
Department of Cardiac Surgery
St Bartholomew’s Hospital
London EC1A 7BE

Dear Dr Pal

At our last meeting you gave me a form on which to appraise my experience of your service, and I promised to complete it. But I was dismayed. I needed time to examine my reaction before complying.

Quality assurance is always important. Capturing feedback from patients at discharge needs a short, clear form. The form is excellent. Please find it complete and enclosed.

The source of my dismay was the form’s utter inadequacy for recording my appreciation of what you and your colleagues have done for me. We use such forms to rate pizza deliveries. Hence the need for this letter, of which copies go to the ward, to Mr Aktuerk, to my cardiologist, and to my website.

My time on the ward was instructive. In my own life, the CABG procedure brings to a close years of decline and diminishing activity. It promises extra years of vigour. It is a great, fat, gift, from the country that raised me in peace and prosperity, educated me at no charge, and said, “Now go play.” But on the ward I learned to see the monumental event of my CABG as just part of a daily workflow.

Your team is amazing. I have seen good teamwork before; your team’s is outstanding. It shows, for example, in how gracefully you all support each other’s work. It shows, for example, in the consistency of the care taken to record observations accurately. (I have been asked my date of birth so many times I am considering changing it.)

But far more impressive is how the great machine of the unit, churning out improved health outcomes, is guided at every point, in every person, by kindness. It is not that I am a stranger to kindness; I have been treated kindly before. But a team so consistently guided by it, focused on ensuring I get what I need – leaves me awed. It takes years to build such a culture; it cannot be bought or commanded.

So, my thanks, and my huge respect for you all and what you are doing. And chocolates! A box for the first floor, and another for the ward, care of you and Sister Grindlay. Please share and enjoy.

Yours sincerely
Stephen Taylor FRSA


Friendly faces everywhere at Barts Heart Centre:

Even the octopus is half asleep

face face face face face face face face face face

Nursing notes

I habitually sleep on my side, to minimise the risk of sleep apnoea. But recovery notes advise me to sleep on my back. How to avoid turning to my side in my sleep? Clasping a hospital pillow – which is very light – to my chest did the trick. I awoke as I had fallen asleep, on my back.

Coughing has become an adventure. Yet is is very important to recovery to take deep breaths – ouch – and clear the lungs of congestion.

The deep breathing walks a line. Without enough pain relief, I fail to breathe deeply. Too much and I risk straining the wound.

Previously I might cough hard to clear any congestion in my chest. This won’t do. A non-violent approach is needed.

The recovery notes tell me to cough to the side to avoid coughing over the wound. I have learned to cough gently to both sides. One side or the other usually clears the congestion comfortably.

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