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27 September 2019

UH Bristol hosts special event on Brunel’s SS Great Britain for former ICU patients

On Monday 9 September, members of staff from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Bristol Royal Infirmary hosted a special event giving former patients of the unit and their families the opportunity to speak to each other and to some of the staff who treated them about their experiences, and the impact it had on them.

The event, which was the first of its kind in the area, was held on Brunel's SS Great Britain, one of Bristol's most significant and well-known historical landmarks. It was attended by over 100 former patients and their families, as well as a number of different staff members from the ICU and across the Trust.

The event opened with a range of speakers including Matt Thomas, ICU consultant, Nicky Freeman Fielding, ICU matron, and the Bristol Lord Mayor, Councillor Jos Clark. After the speeches, patients and their families had the opportunity to speak about their experience with other people who had been in similar circumstances, and were also able to see and speak to some of the staff who treated them while they were critically ill. Guests were also able to explore the ship and find out more about its history from a number of tour guides who were present throughout the evening.

Also in attendance at the event was the Trust's resident poet, who plays a key role in helping patients throughout the Trust's hospitals reflect on their experience, who performed a spoken word piece as well as writing bespoke, personalised poems for attendees.

Members of staff from the ICU, and Lord Mayor, Councillor Jos Clarke

The event was organised by Becky Russell, sister on the ICU at UH Bristol. Speaking about the significance of the event, Becky said:

"By their very nature, intensive care units are very difficult places to be not just for patients, but for their families and for staff who work on them. While many patients on the ICU will recover and go on to lead normal lives, the effect doesn't end the moment they come out of our hospital, and we know that approximately 30% of ICU patients nationally will experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder later in life.

For people who work on an ICU as well, it can be extremely difficult to be in such an intense environment and not have it impact upon your personal life. We have to constantly make sure that we try and limit the impact it has on us as people.

For those reasons, being able to speak openly and honestly about this impact with others who have similar experiences is massively important, and we're thrilled to have been able to provide this opportunity on one of Bristol's most iconic and historical landmarks.

The reception and reaction to this event has been fantastic, and we hope this is the first of many events we hold."

In 2018, Mark Beckett underwent gallbladder surgery at Musgrove Park Hospital. Unfortunately, following the procedure he suffered severe complications, including contracting sepsis. Due to the severity of his complications, Mark was transferred to the ICU at Bristol Royal Infirmary and remained there for 103 days. While on the ICU, Mark had to undergo more than 30 different surgeries, and officially died four times, being successfully resuscitated each time. He was eventually discharged on 13 December 2018 and attended the event to meet the staff who had cared for him. Mark said:

"Without the love, care, and utterly dedicated professionalism of the staff at the ICU I wouldn't be here today. They were, and are, beyond amazing. I literally owe them my life. It was very emotional for me to meet with some of the people who helped me last year, and it was a fantastic event to be a part of."

Mark Beckett (centre) with some of the staff who cared for him while on the ICU

The event was supported by Above & Beyond, one of the charities who support UH Bristol's hospitals, and Bard Arctic Sun, manufacturer of patient temperature management equipment used on the ICU.

Paul Kearney, Above & Beyond CEO, said:

"It was fantastic to be able to support this incredibly important event and we hope to continue to support ICU patients and staff at any future events, as well as in their day-to-day lives at the hospital.

"It is thanks to our generous supporters that we are able to work with UH Bristol to improve patient care at our hospitals."

Speaking about the event, Kat McConnell, Events Manager at Brunel's SS Great Britain commented:

"We were delighted to host UH Bristol's ICU event on board Brunel's SS Great Britain. We hold events for groups of all shapes and sizes and it was extremely moving to host an evening as meaningful as this one. We hope guests enjoyed their evening and hope to welcome them back soon to experience the attraction".