Just after Christmas in December 2022, I started to feel unwell and took myself off to bed. A phone call to 111 and a blood pressure so low that a blood pressure couldn't be detected took to me to my local A&E in Portsmouth where I rapidly deteriorated. I don't remember anything after arriving there in the ambulance until Andy walked into my room on 14th January. I had caught Flu which had attacked my heart. Andy was told I had a 10% chance of survival. I had an emergency procedure to be connected to an ECMO machine (basically an external heart) so that my actual heart could recover and was transferred to Harefield Hospital. We had never heard of it but it's the most incredible place and one of only a handful of specialist centres for ECMO in the country. It was the last hospital in the country (except Aberdeen) that had an available machine. In Portsmouth, fortunately I had a Consultant in Intensive care who happened to be part of the country's ECMO retrieval service who performed the procedure on New Years Eve! After just over 2 weeks in intensive care and just over 3 weeks on Rowan Ward I was able to go home to my incredible family to continue my rehabilitation. A side-effect of the illness has been an inability to pull my feet up (ironic considering I'm a podiatrist) and my left hand doesn't function properly. They are improving though and I have splints to help me move around normally.

The care that I had and my family had, whilst in Harefield Hospital was amazing and it has continued since discharge. Everyone that I met (and can remember) were lovely, whether that was the domestic staff (thanks for helping move my picture wall) or catering team (who knew exactly what I wanted for breakfast without needing to ask) through to the BEST Doctors (at all grades), phlebotomists and Allied health professionals. I had input from nearly every group of allied health professionals at some point in my care and they never get the credit they deserve so my thanks go to them:
• Paramedics (particularly the ECMO retrieval ones as they had a long road trip)
• Physiotherapists (who got me breathing more easily, standing and walking)
• Occupational therapists (for helping with my hand)
• Speech and language therapists (who got me eating and talking again)
• Radiographers (for all those scans you did)
• Dieticians (eating)
• Operating department practitioners (I assume there were some involved somewhere along the lines)
• And although they weren’t technically a Music Therapist, the violinist who came around the wards on a weekly basis and played whatever you asked him to play (and his repertoire was huge) was the highlight of the week when I was in hospital and definitely was a form of therapy.
• Orthotists (once back home)

The care from Harefield didn't stop at me. They were there for Andy whilst he had to sit and watch it all, and it was harrowing to watch. They even helped with supporting Isla with books to help her understand the situation and protecting the visiting times when Isla came to visit as much as they could. They just completely got how much that was important to us.

On 10th September, Andy, Isla and I are going to be doing (it will be a mixture of walking and running hopefully) the 4 mile Harefield Fun Run to help raise money for this amazing hospital to say thank you for all they have done for us. If you can donate, we would very much appreciate it and I know it will make a big difference to the patients who need Harefield Hospitals care.

Rachel Ferguson