Quest nurse Katie Berry was so poorly with flu she ended up in A&E resus at CRH and fearing for her life. She has asthma and despite having the jab and being a flu champion she deteriorated so quickly she thought she could die... and then along came Jack and Millie. (aka Dr Jack Long and staff nurse Camilla Sykes)
The care they (and many others) provided at that desperate time left a lasting impression on Katie and so back she came on a special mssion to say thankyou to them personally. Read her experience in her own words. It's heartwarming and truly amazing.
" I first started to feel unwell on the Friday at work, spaced out, tired and a little muddled. Nothing new for me I thought, I am the proud owner of two under-fives.
By the Saturday morning I was feeling wheezy but again I thought nothing of it as I have asthma. I drove myself to one of my usual haunts at the walk in. I walked out with a souvenir of antibiotics and steroids, drove back home and collapsed in bed for a few hours.
When I woke I was struggling to breathe, coughing uncontrollably with a temperature of 39 degrees. I knew I needed more help, and in true nurse style decided I didn’t need an ambulance but got my father in law to drive me to CRH A&E. I found myself thinking the entire time car journey, why didn’t I just ring 999. I was struggling to breathe and trying to be polite to my father in law with small talk. I naively thought I would just need a few nebulisers while the steroids and antibiotics kicked in and worked their magic.
It was at A&E that I was greeted by an amazing young doctor named Jack. My little boy’s name I joked with him. Jack prescribed me nebuliser after nebuliser, cannulated me, took bloods, ordered a chest X-ray and promptly whipped me into resus. Now I’m sure you can imagine resus is a scary place for anyone but with inside knowledge watching monitors with dipping 02 saturations and a rapid heartbeat I knew I was in trouble. This wasn’t just my usual flare up of asthma.
I was then greeted by a beautiful angel of a nurse called Millie. Who instantly calmed me with her smile. We’ll keep an eye on you she said, and asked if anyone knew where I was. I replied my husband, Gavin, knew I was in hospital, but he didn’t know I was now in resus. He was blissfully unaware probably enjoying the peace whilst our two children slept in their beds. I know Millie could see the fear in my eyes and promised to ring my husband when we knew what was happening. I felt safe in Millie’s and Jack’s care, terrified but safe.
Things then took a turn for the worse, my 02 saturations dropped to 85% my heart rate remained at a rate of 150bpm and my temperature was refusing to come down with IV paracetamol. I couldn’t breathe. It was then that it dawned on me, what if I never see my family again. I wondered if I might die in that very moment and I’ll never forget that feeling. In fact I remember thinking at least if I have a cardiac or respiratory arrest I wouldn’t have to breathe any longer, because by this point I was exhausted and ready to give up.
Millie in her expertise suggested a flu swab. I remember saying it can’t be flu, I’ve had my flu jab! In fact in the irony of this story I’m actually one of the flu champions and had administered half of my caseloads flu vaccines.
Jack took blood gases, prescribed fluids, IV antibiotics, magnesium, 02 and reviewed my X-ray. I remember him apologising for causing me pain, whilst I was promptly being sick. Sorry Jack!
My beautiful colleague and friend then arrived . She knew I was in hospital, but unaware that I had been rushed into resus. Bleary eyed she sat by my bedside until the early hours, knowing my husband couldn’t be with me and not wanting me to go through this alone. Lauren there are no words but thank you for being there for me when I needed a friend, a hug and an “it’s all going to be ok” the most. Oh and for point blank refusing to bring me my laptop so I could type up some care plans. Ever the nurse, never the patient!
The rest is a blur of more tests, IVS and loneliness as I waited to hear what was wrong with me. “You have flu” my consultant said. Really, is that all I thought?! I knew flu made people poorly, but I was naive to just how unwell it made people.
I spent two nights in hospital and finally got to go home to my own bed. Which I didn’t move from for nearly 4 weeks!
I was terrified my children would contract flu, because if it could make me this poorly what damage could it do to a four and two year old! I rang my manager Liz for some help. Who promptly then rang Gavin our consultant microbiologist. Gavin rang me personally and advised he would ring my GP to get Jack (my little boy) Tamiflu. Hannah, my little girl, he felt, was protected as she had received her flu nasal spray. Liz and Gavin thank you for your kindness, support and for going above and beyond for me.
Now to my two guardian angels because I believe that’s exactly what you are. Jack and Millie, I’ll never forget you. Without wanting to sound dramatic, I feel I owe my life to you both. How can you thank someone who worked tirelessly to look after you when you felt like giving up and were at your most vulnerable. You are both truly amazing people and our Trust is lucky to have two such passionate, empathetic and skilled professionals.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, my husband's and my children’s.
So will I have my flu jab again this year. Without a doubt, in a heartbeat a big fat YES! Any small amount of protection against this horrific virus is better than none. If I could say anything please, I beg you, have your flu vaccine. I wouldn’t want any of us to go through what I did that awful night, and just to add if you’re wondering no the vaccine didn’t give me the flu. To you Influenza A, respect you well and truly floored me. You took me to the depths of hell and I will never underestimate you again, but please kindly leave us and our patients alone.
And now to all of us, ‘we put the patient first, we go see, we work together to get results and we do the must do’s’. Please don’t underestimate your hard work and dedication to our Trust even in your hardest days because I’m proof that it doesn’t go unnoticed in your patients' eyes. And, just keep in mind that one day you might need your fantastic colleagues just like I did. Look after each other."
We asked our lead microbiologist and ‘flu guru Dr Gavin Boyd how Katie caught the ‘flu even though she’d had her vaccination.
“Katie has asthma so knows how important it is to have her vaccination as she’s made clear here. Each year the vaccine changes based on the most prevalent strains of the virus. We know it won’t cover every single strain, but it’s still the best form of preventing ‘flu we have, along with the usual precautions of good hygiene and the use of FFP3 masks when treating a suspected ‘flu patient.
"And whilst colleagues may think they’re not being affected by the ‘flu, they may still be carriers even though their own immune system is protecting them personally.”