Here is part two of the Guest Post by Chrissie Fuller.

In my recent blog, Part 1 of this series, I wrote about 95 year old Sylvia, who has a rare cancer on her arm that was being successfully treated with hemp oil balm by her 70 year old son, James. He had received a visit from the Social Services and together with one of his GPs they managed to convince James to take his mother to A&E with a suspected minor stroke. You can read Part One here). This is what happened next…..

As our local A&E in Chorley is closed overnight from 6pm due to the NHS cuts we had to take Sylvia to the Royal Preston Hospital which is a 20 mile round trip from home. There she was examined thoroughly, and after 5 hours and several tests and scans later we were informed that she was medically fit but that they wanted to admit her overnight for observation and further tests. She was admitted to the EDU ward around 11pm on the 19th June 2017.

The following day James received a call informing him that she had been moved to Gynaecology. When we visited her later that day she was hooked up to an intravenous drip which turned out to be saline and were informed that she was dehydrated and anaemic and that she was to be given a blood transfusion overnight. Gynaecology Ward at the Royal Preston hospital appears to be used as an overflow ward and nothing to do with having babies! Sylvia was in a ward with five other ladies of varying ages and degrees of illness. While we were there we noticed that it stated on her records, “Safeguarding from son – dressing with hemp”!

Yes – you read that right! Safeguarding from her 70 year old son, her carer for the past seven years, who has only ever had his mother’s best interests at heart and whose medical intervention had been containing the damage to her arm caused by the cancer! James was devastated and when questioned about this, the staff on duty promptly told him off for looking at the notes and his questions were met with a wall of silence!

He was informed that his mother would not be released from hospital until a suitable care package was in place at home with District Nurses calling three times a week and carers coming in every day to see to her needs like washing and dressing. When he asked how long that would take he was again met with the silent wall but given the impression that it would be weeks, not days, because they were under pressure and it was not something that could be sorted out overnight.

In the meantime, Sylvia, who is almost blind, extremely deaf and suffering from mild dementia, was left to fend for herself in a hospital bed along with a ward full of strangers, being nursed by an ever-changing supply of bank staff who knew nothing about her or her case, miles away from home and her son, who felt that he knew what was best for his mother and who wanted her home just as much as she did!

In the meantime, the hospital began to dress the arm every day with twice as much bandaging as James had ever used and at the beginning of week two, we noticed that Sylvia’s hand had swollen to twice its normal size. No-one on the ward had noticed this even though it was plainly obvious to anyone who happened to compare it to her other hand. We also noticed that her ankles were swollen. The diagnosis was that this was because she was in bed most of the time and not getting any exercise, which James said she would have had if she had been at home with him! It was decided to put the arm up in a sling and to elevate it. They also provided a foot stool for her to put her feet up when sat in her chair.

At this point, we were also given the opportunity to see the wound on Sylvia’s arm as we were visiting her when the dressings nurse came to change her bandages. It was a horrific sight! The wound was oozing and slimy and totally unlike it had been when James was tending to it himself. It was heartbreaking to see. It was also apparent that none of the staff on the ward had ever seen anything like it and that no-one really seemed to know what they were doing. At one point Sylvia was surrounded by six different nurses, many of them trainees and of course, James, who was trying to educate them as best he could on how best to care for the arm.

The next day when we visited she was hooked up to another IV and we were told that she the wound was infected so they were giving her intravenous antibiotics which would take at least a week to work. The arm was not elevated and the footstool was not being used. James went ballistic!

In week three, after repeatedly pointing out numerous failings of basic care for his mum, including the fact that the fingers on her swollen hand were becoming rigid due to lack of exercise and, in his opinion, tight bandaging, and pointing out that his mother was rapidly losing weight due to the fact that she couldn’t feed herself properly, James gave the staff an ultimatum – either they discharge his mum by the end of the week or he was taking her home himself! Sylvia by now was constantly repeating that she hated being in hospital and wanted to die. She was obviously not getting the standard of care she would possibly have had in a Geriatric Ward where her needs would be better understood.

Something must have worked because the very next day a meeting was called between James, the District Nurse and a social worker and it was agreed that everything would be put in place for her to go home, probably within days. The very next day Sylvia contracted another infection and was back on the IV antibiotics. James called for a meeting with the senior doctor who explained that as soon as Sylvia was medically fit she could go home. The course of antibiotics would take at least another five days to work.and as soon as she could be put onto oral tablets he would be able to discharge her. When we asked why the fingers on her hand were going rigid like a claw, he explained that it was because although the tendons in the arms were still functioning, there was very little muscle left to open the fingers due to the cancer. Once again, James was convinced that if she had been at home, this would not have been the case.

At the end of week three we had still not heard anything further about the care package but we did hear from the hospital that Sylvia was being moved into the Rehabilitation Ward, a positive step in our eyes. Rehab was supposed to be a stepping stone to finally going home….wasn’t it?

In Part Three I will tell you what happened next…..you can read it on here or visit my blog at The Chrissie Fuller Daily

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