Nurses call to action to support air ambulance and pandemic
PUBLISHED: 13:20 29 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:02 29 July 2020
A Norfolk nurse who helped to keep support for families running while working on the frontline has spoken of the challenge to keep the service going.
Sue Gee, from Sheringham, works as a sister in the cardiology ward at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and part-time as a clinical liaison officer for the East Anglian Air Ambulance’s (EAAA) after care team.
The mum-of-two played an important part in keeping the service running while colleagues Alison Brett, Georgie Sellick and Lisa Boyle were redeployed to work at the London Nightingale, Addenbroke’s, in Cambridge, and West Suffolk, in Bury St Edmunds, hospitals.
Balancing her own work, Mrs Gee was able to give two days a week to the after care team to make sure EAAA patients were still supported.
Mrs Gee has been part of the after care team for two years, using her 18 years experience and interest in pre-hospital cardiac arrest to assist families.
The after care team works with patients and their loved ones through recovery or bereavement to provide information in relation to their incident or treatment.
Mrs Gee said: “The patient themselves often knows nothing about it at all. It’s the husband, the wife, the son, the daughter, the friend that have to give CPR to the patients.
“We are here to fill in the gaps.
“We facilitate meetings between the patient and the crews, which we did pre-Covid. We have face to face meetings where we talk them through what happened and the support that happened.”
During lockdown, EAAA crews saw a 30pc fall in call outs but the team wanted to be there for those who needed support.
While there was a decline, Mrs Gee was still offering support through phone and video calls, which replaced the usual home or face to face visits.
Mrs Gee said: “I wanted to carry on the after care service and keep that going but I needed to prioritise the shifts I covered.
“I have two children, its not easy for anybody.
“I think the [after care team] is really important, it is something we have been building up and it is very beneficial to patients and especially to relatives.”
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The after care team also work with EAAA’s doctors and paramedics to provide feedback and organise base visits for the crews and families to meet.
In one instance, Mrs Gee recalled a patient who had suffered a severe cardiac arrest walking into the base as if they had never been ill.
She said: “It was a very happy ending a cardiac patient, almost non-saveable, walking back into the base with no neurological effects, completely as they were prior to the event, there face to face with the crew that saved their life.
“These are happy stories, we do not always have happy endings.
“With 18 years experience, you are dealing with people on the worst day of their lives and sometimes it isn’t a happy ending.
“We want to be there to support the people when it isn’t a happy ending as well.”
Mrs Gee was able to provide this support while working full-time at the NNUH.
Mrs Gee said: “We have been working very hard in cardiology to ensure we can provide the same level of expert care to all patients during these complex times, including developing a second Coronary Care Unit, so that we can care for those with suspected and confirmed Covid-19.
“We continue to provide a first-class lifesaving service to our patients.
“I am also very proud to have been able to continue working for EAAA, supporting these vulnerable patients too.”
Alison Brett, EAAA’s head of aftercare and community operations, said it was never a situation she could have envisaged.
Mrs Brett herself was called down to London to help at the Nightingale Hospital and after six weeks was able to return to her role full-time and work with Mrs Gee to support patients.
She said she was grateful to EAAA for allowing the team to adjust their roles to help in the coronavirus fight.
Ms Brett said: “As nurses, we all felt the urge to support the NHS as much as possible but also have a commitment to our EAAA patients.
“Our crews were slightly quieter at the beginning of the lockdown, about 30pc, but now they are busy again, and so are we.
“There are lots of EAAA patients in the region who now need our support.”
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