Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust’s first live ‘meet and mingle’ since the COVID-19 pandemic was hailed a success as former critical care patients held a festive get-together in person.
Organised by the Critical Care Rehabilitation Team, more than 30 former patients who had been on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Walsall Manor Hospital were present at the ICU forum in the MLCC at the Manor Hospital, along with their family members.
The team has supported hundreds of patients who have had a period in critical care on their recovery journey and cover both physical and psychological support.
The virtual forum was established back in May 2021 for patients and staff alike to share their experiences and help enhance practice at the Trust.
Xana Marriott, Senior Sister for Critical Care Rehabilitation, said: “We’ve found these forums have really helped people in their recovery psychologically – not only the patients but their family members because they also go through the trauma as well.
“It’s really rewarding for staff to see the positive stories of patients getting well. You can see how much effort they have put in, from being on ICU to then seeing them in the community is really rewarding. I think it’s important for everyone to share this experience – hence the meet and mingle.”
Amy Bonner, lead Physiotherapist for ICU Rehabilitation, said: “We can only say from a professional point of view what has gone, so for us as staff, we have gained an idea of what the patients and loved ones have gone through.
“Also, the patients got chance to talk to each other and having that peer support. We found from the online forums that people create these closer bonds with each other and talk about their experiences, so they know they haven’t gone through it alone.
“It’s about patients having that end goal because when you only see them in ICU or clinic, you don’t see them as they are now because the last time we might have seen them was when they were really struggling. Sometimes we can’t even recognise them!”
Donna Botfield, ICU Rehabilitation Sister, admitted the pandemic had affected staff too because of the severity of the illness they saw in patients.
“It’s been very hard for us too, seeing the patients go through it all, but as a rehab service, seeing the patients progressing has been really rewarding. Also, for patients and their relatives to see other people getting better has been beneficial too.”
Xana said it has been a learning experience for staff too, adding: “We have a QR code for patients to give feedback and a lot of the changes we have made to improve the service has been done after patient feedback.”
The forum has, understandably, supported many COVID-19 survivors but was open to anyone who has had a significant stay in critical care.
Two patients who survived COVID-19 – first-time mum Ellie Wright, 22, who didn’t see her baby for its first two months, and Keith Holland, 69, from Aldridge, and their relatives – gave moving testimonies about their ICU recovery and journey.