In December 2014, Majella Anning sat with her husband, John Palmer, as he recovered at King’s from a quadruple heart bypass operation. Four days after the procedure he suddenly deteriorated dramatically, was diagnosed with septicaemia and put in an induced coma which he remained in for almost three weeks. Majella remembers her experiences and explains why she’s supporting our Support Life Appeal.
‘We were in King’s over Christmas and New Year – I spent Christmas Day sitting beside my husband in a hospital bed.
‘You live in a state of permanent terror. When you’re at home, you know that whenever the phone rings that it could change your life forever. You can’t concentrate, it’s like you’re living in a bubble.
‘During the periods when John was in the deep coma, to go in day after day and see your husband lying with his eyes closed not moving or just twitching a bit – that’s a pretty distressing thing to watch.
‘Nothing that was going on in the world mattered. I couldn’t focus on anything else – the fear of losing my husband was overwhelming.
‘But I was hugely impressed by the professionalism of the staff at every level. I had complete confidence that if John’s life could be saved, it would be saved there.
‘As a patient you lose everything. John had to take off his wedding ring before the operation, which he hated. So he didn’t have any of his rings, any clothes that were normal, he was with people he didn’t know. Except for family coming in, there’s nothing as point of reference.
‘We brought in photographs or videos from John’s grandchildren, newspapers that we could read to him – some things he could connect to his own life. But there wasn’t anything to look at in the immediate environment. If we’d have had a view of some sort, like the greenery that they’re planning for the new Critical Care Centre, we could have at least talked to him about that. John could have looked at that and possibly kept his mind off all of the discomfort and unusual situation he was in.’
‘I think it’s very important for relatives not to feel isolated, so the plans for tablets and wifi in the new Critical Care Centre are great. I was there at least eight hours a day; to contemplate life and death every minute of your days, as well as when you’re trying to sleep, is very draining.
‘I took great comfort in writing emails to John’s wider family, friends and colleagues about his condition. If I’d have had wifi there I could have sent updates from the hospital, but I had to phone people and tell them to send emails, or wait until I got home to do it myself.
‘The staff were very sympathetic and patient with us, and they would do anything they could do to inform us of what was happening and explain things.
‘I recall one of the consultants called Claire had to brief me on some pretty dramatic news. She obviously looked at my face and then she put her arm around me. That was a very meaningful gesture to me. I did not expect that – she was a professional who was looking after many different sick people, but I thought that was really impressive. And it really helped.
‘We had world-class care and you can’t put money on that. They didn’t just give John back his life, they also gave me back my life.’
In our new Critical Care Centre, we want every patient to have access to large format touch screens, giving access to their favourite music radio, TV, films and photos and allowing them and friends and family to keep in touch via video conferencing. Your donation can help make this happen.