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  • Richard Cree

Visiting Time

Updated: May 21

Monday 18th May 2020

Figures for 17th May

UK COVID Deaths 170 / Total 34,636

James Cook Hospital – Total COVID deaths – 216

All COVID cases within South Tees Hospitals Trust – 56

James Cook Critical Care COVID cases – 9 (7 ventilated)

James Cook Critical Care non-COVID cases – 31 (16 ventilated)

Anyone who has spent any time in hospital will tell you how important visiting time is. When I was much younger I remember spending two months in hospital. One of my strongest recollections was watching the clock impatiently as I waited for my family to visit. Currently, none of our patients can have visitors at all.

Of course, normally when any of our ICU patients become unstable we do our best to accommodate visitors at any time. This means that they are usually present at critical times to allow for easy communication and for the patient to be able to see their family.

Right at the start of the outbreak one of our Outreach nurses, Lou, experienced the anguish that the lack of visitors can cause our patients. She had seen a gentleman with coronavirus pneumonitis on one of the medical wards. It was clear that he needed intubating and ventilating soon but the team were very concerned that, given his age and frailty, he would not survive. Normally, we would try to give any patient in this situation a few minutes to talk with their accompanying family before we sedated them. It may well be the last time they will see them awake if the worst happens.

Lou wanted to get him to talk to his daughter but did not have access to any telephones that could be brought into the bed area. All mobiles had either been left outside the emergency area or were tucked away in pockets under PPE and so couldn’t be used. Luckily she managed to find the patients mobile ‘phone and was able to use that and the Gentleman managed to speak to his daughter, possibly for the last time. The mobile reception was not great and so a tense telephone call was made worse by poor communication.

Lou had been very upset by how difficult the situation had been and was surprised how much of an effect it had on her. Vowing to do something about it she decided to raise some money in order to provide the team with 4G and Wi-Fi enabled tablets so that patients could use video-calling in all parts of the hospital to communicate with their family. I can testify how much better these video-calls are when compared to just speaking on the telephone, especially when the conversation is as difficult as the one between her patient and his daughter was.

I previously have mentioned the Life Lines charity which began to provide similar devices to ICUs across the country. What I hadn’t realised was that Lou had started collecting and organising this some time before then. As well as providing the tablets for communication she has purchased separate Kindle Fire tablets that can access Amazon Prime content. These will allow our patients to stream movies and TV shows, read eBooks or listen to unlimited audiobooks or podcasts. She got in touch with Amazon who have very kindly offered to provide each tablet with a free Prime subscription meaning every patient will be able to watch or listen to whatever they want.

Up until this point we have not been able to offer patients much in the way of entertainment. We have been plagued for years with a poor television signal in the ICUs and the most appalling choice of DVDs for patients to watch – ‘Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla’ or ‘Dude, Where’s my Car’ anyone?

The remainder of any money raised is to be spent on making any patient’s ICU stay more bearable. All clinical care is provided for but sometimes it is the little things that make a difference. Lou has already purchased care packages that include more upmarket toiletries, some enticing food and drink items to help stimulate appetite, books and magazines etc. We would also hope to be able to use some money to help provide support for patients and their families once they leave ICU and subsequently when they return home.

In the past we have tried to run what we call a ‘follow-up clinic’ where my colleagues would arrange to see recent ICU patients once they had been discharged from hospital and offer much needed clinical and psychological support, linking in with rehabilitation services within the community. This was done voluntarily with staff giving up their free-time. With the number of COVID patients who spend a long time in ICU, the need for a good rehabilitation service has never been higher. We hope to ultimately secure funding for such a service but any charitable money will help enormously to add a few frills to make the experience even better for patients.

The donation website for Lou’s fund is still open and the link is below. All money will be used entirely to help our ICU patients on their long road to recovery:

https://paypal.me/pools/c/8nPCr8AFL1

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