#ExpOfCare week: Miracle at St Bartholomew's | Our news

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#ExpOfCare week: Miracle at St Bartholomew's

For Experience of Care Week we are highlighting examples of outstanding care from around our hospitals.

St Bartholomew’s Hospital patient Graham made a full recovery from an induced coma thanks to the amazing physiotherapy team led by Jo Wade, specialist neuro-oncology physiotherapist.

Graham’s son Paul shares the story of how the team helped his father recover, regain his independence and his dignity.

“My father, aged 78 year old previously relatively fit for his age, developed melanoma in his calf. Previous operations to remove it had failed and so immunotherapy was recommended as the next course of action. After the second treatment, he was rushed to St Bartholomew’s as an emergency showing symptoms of toxicity from the pembrolizumab drug. My father additionally developed Myasthenia Gravis from the side effects of the drug. His condition deteriorated further and he was transferred to ICU where he eventually slipped into an induced coma with support needed for all of his major organs and a ventilator was fitted to assist with his breathing. My father’s condition was officially termed “grave” and we were warned numerous times not to underestimate how ill he was. Two days before Christmas the doctors told us to brace ourselves and to prepare for the worst as no treatments were working. My father was ultimately in St Bartholomew’s Hospital for just short of six months overall, including three months in ICU. Somehow he pulled through, no-one really knows how. The doctors have since published a case study on him and his continued recovery.

As my father’s time in ICU came to an end, we were introduced to Jo, Tara and the team. Due to the extended time in ICU Dad had lost virtually all muscle definition; he could not stand unaided, he could barely move his arms and his toes, such was the poor extent of his movement. I remember my father looking at his painfully stick thin legs in despair and wondering “how can these legs and arms possibly support me” and to be fair our family, despite publically being positive in front of him, in private we felt that given his age and how ill he had been, had severe doubts there was a way back and he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

From this low starting point and over the next weeks, Jo and the team performed in our view a miracle. Step by step, day by day, using their methods the team firstly got him standing unaided (a huge achievement) and then got him walking, firstly with a frame, then with a stick. My father told me that the team made him feel like a superstar, every morning at 9am one of the team would be there, smiling as he woke, to take him through a gentle exercise programme to re-build the muscles in his arms. Then after a rest they would be back later in the day to put him in a specially designed chair with the aim of ultimately getting him to stand on his own two feet. The team were always so positive and never appeared to have a doubt that he could achieve his goals. He remembers them all saying “one more Graham” and “nose over toes” which drove him on to improve day by day.

The team designed a special programme for my father to support his recovery with stated goals and achievements, even the slightest improvement was celebrated and the level of encouragement was second to none. They learned that my father being inside for so long yearned to get outside and so as a reward for progress made the team even organised and took him to the rooftop of Maggies outside of the hospital where he could breathe fresh air for the first time in months, and which dramatically improved his state of mind and I have no doubt drove the next phase of his recovery. Near the end of his stay, the team also took him on a separate visit to the shop for a Barts T-shirt to celebrate his progress and due to the amazing level of care my father wanted something to remember the team by.

From a family perspective, this was a truly worrying time for us, but if we asked, the team would take time to meet with us, communicate effectively by going through their aims, targets and objectives clearly so we also knew how to support them, supporting my father as one big team. We have no doubt that without the support and dedication shown from Jo and the team, my father would not be back on his feet, they have ultimately helped him regain his independence and his dignity.

Just to close, on the 18th February my father married his long-time partner, we had an amazing day and my father lasted the whole day. He walked unaided down the aisle and even managed his first dance and then guest appearances on the dance floor. We also invited Jo to the day to say thank you. As a family we have a lot to thank the team for and my father was very keen for us to show our support.”

Congratulations to Jo and the physiotherapy team at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, who are true ambassadors of our WeCare values in providing an amazing level of care.

A wonderful example to kick off Experience of Care Week! To read our Patient Engagement and Experience Strategy click here


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