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‘We wouldn’t be here without you’ - Mother’s thanks to hospital as it celebrates 40th birthday

PUBLISHED: 06:35 22 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:12 22 July 2020

Lisa and Henry Austin/The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Picture: QEH/Lisa Austin

Lisa and Henry Austin/The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Picture: QEH/Lisa Austin

QEH/Lisa Austin

I wouldn’t be here today without you - and neither would my son.

Lisa and Henry Austin. Picture: Lisa AustinLisa and Henry Austin. Picture: Lisa Austin

As a Norfolk hospital celebrates its 40th anniversary, that is the message from a mother who has told how it saved her from meningitis as a toddler.

Almost three decades later, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn saved the life of her baby after birth complications.

Lisa Austin and her son Henry are just two of the countless lives which have been transformed by the QEH since it opened in 1980.

Doctors battled to save Mrs Austin, now 34, after she was rushed into hospital in February 1988.

Lisa Austin in hospital as a baby. Picture: Supplied by the French familyLisa Austin in hospital as a baby. Picture: Supplied by the French family

“When I was 21 months old I had meningitis,” she said. “I was in hospital and in a coma.”

All ended happily for little Lisa, who went on to recover from both the meningitis and potentially-fatal septicaemia.

MORE - Boris Johnson says £250m QEH upgrade under “active consideration”

A generation later, she and husband Matthew were devastated when their first son Henry suffered complications while he was being born in the QEH in May, 2015.

Henry Austin in hospital. Picture: Lisa AustinHenry Austin in hospital. Picture: Lisa Austin

“Before he was born we didn’t know he was poorly,” she said. “He was born very quickly but he wasn’t breathing.

“They took him straight off me and put him on a crash cart to bring him back. They brought him back and saved him.”
Little Henry was suffering from sepsis and a general infection. Staff gave him round-the-clock care until he recovered.

“Without them I wouldn’t be here and neither would my son,” said Mrs Austin, a Lynn-based solicitor who is also now mother to Henry’s two-year-old brother George. She added she sometimes bumps into one of the midwives who helped save her son in a supermarket near her home in Lynn.

“Whenever I see her, it makes me want to cry,” she said. “Without them, we just wouldn’t be here.”

The Duchess of Kent opens the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn  Picture: ArchantThe Duchess of Kent opens the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn Picture: Archant

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Many more will share her thoughts as the QEH celebrates the 40th anniversary of its opening today.

The £17m 480-bed hospital, named after the late Queen Mother, was officially opened by the Duchess of Kent on July 22, 1980, although maternity services had moved onto the Gayton Road site in 1971.

She said: “I hope very much that the nurses and doctors who will be here in the coming years will find the courage and strength of spirit to continue in their great work, and that the patients who come here will find the care and sympathy which I have come to realise is abundant in every type of hospital I have opened or just visited.”

Caroline Shaw, chief executive of the QEH. Photo: QEHCaroline Shaw, chief executive of the QEH. Photo: QEH

Forty years on, a new generation of NHS workers are showing the courage and strength of spirit the duchess spoke of as they battle coronavirus - a crisis their predecessors could scarcely have imagined.

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QEH chief executive Caroline Shaw said staff had gone “above and beyond” throughout the crisis, during which the hospital treated 457 cases, 157 of whom had not survived.

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Prof Steve Barnett, chair of the trust which runs the hospital, said: “For the first time we have a situation where staff are not only concerned for the welfare of their patients but for their own safety and their own family units.”

Mrs Shaw said the hospital had hoped to celebrate its 40th anniversary by throwing a party and opening its doors to the public, but this would not be possible because of the need for social distancing.

She said the QEH had also hoped to stage a garden party but this would also not be possible thanks to the pandemic. The event has been pencilled in for next summer.

Mrs Shaw said a hero award was being launched in which staff, patients and members of the public could nominate a member of the hospital team who had made a difference.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital CEO Caroline Shaw. Picture: Ian BurtQueen Elizabeth Hospital CEO Caroline Shaw. Picture: Ian Burt

There will be a public vote after nominations close on August 31.

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Staff will all receive a birthday cake and cup of tea today.

“We regard this as a really significant time for us,” said Prof Barnett. “Over the last 40 years we’ve provided so many services to so many patients and supported so many families across Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met with staff at the QEH in King's Lynn  Picture: Ian BurtThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met with staff at the QEH in King's Lynn Picture: Ian Burt

“It’s important to recognise the amazing job our staff have done.”

• See Friday’s EDP for a birthday celebration of the QEH

• Click here for the QEH 40 Hero Award.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Picture: QEHThe Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Picture: QEH


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