With your help, we helped create the environment needed to deliver specialist life-saving care, for patients who are fighting for their lives

We raised funds to help build two specialist isolation rooms within Royal Brompton’s intensive care unit to treat our most critically ill patients, and allow for their families to be with them every step of the journey.

A last chance at life 

When a patient comes to Royal Brompton Hospital with severe heart or lung failure – meaning their heart or lungs can no longer perform the functions needed to keep them alive – the intensive care team may decide to place them on an extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine.

ECMO is a remarkable process that mimics the function of the heart or lungs by feeding blood out of the body and through a machine that warms and oxygenates it, before feeding it back into the body. It’s a method used when other life-saving techniques such as defibrillation haven’t worked. It is a last resort – a final shot at life that gives doctors the time they need to get to the underlying cause of the person’s illness.

Ours is one of only five hospitals in the UK that carries out this extraordinary process, which saves the lives of patients from Aberdeen to Abergavenny, Belfast to Brighton. The overwhelming majority of the patients who need this extreme, last-chance intervention survive thanks to Royal Brompton’s expert staff, beating the international average. That means it is truly a world-class service.

The need

Royal Brompton’s critical care service is one of the best in the world, and with your help we've helped make it even better for patients, their families and for critical care staff.

There are two reasons we set out to improve this:

  1. Space. Caring for a critically ill person involves a great many staff – around 14. It is a struggle to fit even 10 people into the rooms currently available. Sadly, this means that medical staff are forced to ask relatives to leave the room, which can be highly distressing. What’s more, the current space is not suitable for young children.
  2. Infection control. When a patient is placed on ECMO, time is critical. Doctors often don’t have the time to identify what has caused a patient’s heart or lungs to fail. There is a risk that the cause is in fact a life-threatening infection. So, it’s vital that these patients are treated in total isolation, for everyone’s safety.

Five ways your money has helped

  1. By providing enough room for family members, including children, to stay close to their loved ones without feeling ‘in the way’ of round-the-clock medical care.
  2. By providing enough space for all relevant medical staff to be in the room.
  3. By ensuring infectious patients are safely accommodated thanks to innovative air-lock technology and other state-of-the-art ventilation methods.
  4. By providing a much calmer environment for patients and families, through specially designed soft lighting.
  5. By giving family members who might stay on the unit for weeks, even months, privacy in special alcove spaces in each room.

You've helped families like the Hyatts

Joanne Hyatt was rushed to hospital when her flu-like symptoms began to deteriorate rapidly. The next day, her heart rate plummeted to just 5%. She was transferred to our hospital, where she was placed on ECMO. This gave doctors the time they needed to diagnose Joanne with life-threatening Swine Flu and give her life-saving treatment. Five and a half weeks later, Joanne returned home. She says:

These rooms allow families to stay together from the moment a relative is taken to hospital to the moment they are discharged. That is a game changer. 

The bottom line

This vital appeal has drastically improved the experience for critically ill patients, and has made having a loved one in intensive care that little bit easier for families. What’s more, it has revolutionised the way our world-class ECMO team carry out their life-saving work.

Thank you