I was enveloped in a blanket of genuine care and professionalism at the Norfolk and Norwich

Norman Brooks has been taking weather readings for 60 years. Photo: Bill Smith

Norman Brooks has been taking weather readings for 60 years. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant

Stress at going into hospital was undue, writes Norman Brooks, as he reflects on his time at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Picture: NNUH

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Picture: NNUH - Credit: NNUH

The motivation for writing this article is twofold, firstly by describing my experience, to ally the anxieties of patients admitted to cardiology at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and secondly, to give praise to the wonderfully dedicated team of cardiologists, nurses, and ancillary staff.

We are truly blessed in Norfolk, the Kilverstone Ward being one of the best in the United Kingdom for the treatment of cardiac cases.

Patients stricken with sudden heart problems, and with little or no previous experience the hospital environment, are quite naturally traumatised with the fear of the unknown - I myself felt this stress.

If I had known beforehand that on admittance to the hospital, one would immediately become enveloped in a blanket of genuine care and professionalism with no feeling that one was just another case in the pipeline, any undue fear would never have arisen. In view of the enormous size of the hospital, it was a great surprise for an oldster of 80 to have memories rekindled of the ethos of the long-departed (and lamented) cottage hospital, with a total absence of any stuffiness'

Norman Brooks has been taking weather readings for 60 years. Photo: Bill Smith

Norman Brooks has been taking weather readings for 60 years. Photo: Bill Smith

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Following a sudden, suspected, heart attack, the faultless expertise of the paramedics, and a brief wait at accident and emergency, and ECG and blood test confirmed, that although my symptoms were far from classic, I had suffered a heart attack.

An affable cardiologist explained my condition in understandable layman's terms, and I was linked to a 24-hour monitor that registered all the vital functions.

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The following day I was given an echocardiogram, whose purpose is to build-up a detailed picture of the heart (similar to the ultrasound scan used in pregnancy). Later, a conventional chest x-ray was taken.

This provided a pleasant reminder, that the Norfolk and Norwich, employing a huge number of locals, means that many patients, myself included, have a good chance of meeting an acquaintance - the radiologist was a near-neighbour.

Ensconced in the Kilverstone Ward, as a much appreciated concession, I was issued with a small monitoring device that could be hung around the neck, this allowed the 24 hour surveillance to continue, but allows the patient to retain the dignity of looking after himself in the sanitary sense, and the freedom to shuffle around the corridors for brief walks.

The prospect of the final essential test filled me with a degree of alarm.

The coronary angiogram - on paper is not for the squeamish. The procedure is the insertion of a catheter into an artery, via the arm, and the guidance of this hollow plastic tube into the heart. X-ray screening allows the doctor to identify any narrowing or blockage of arteries. If identified these can be 'opened' by means of a tiny metal tube, or stent.

In spite of my concern on entry to the cath lab, totally different to other parts of the hospital, due I understand to a level of radiation, I felt a not unpleasant sense of the surreal when I was wheeled alongside what appeared to be a raised catafalque.

A nurse then invited me to mount a pair of steps and lie in a prone position on this elevated altar. When she placed a metal dish under my head I felt I was destined for a leading role in a Mayan sacrifice.

Above my head were a range of metal boxes shielding sensors that monitored my chest, a dye had been inserted in my veins to highlight the circulatory system and I could just observe, behind the revolving boxes, the screens monitoring my arteries guided by the cardiologist.

There was no pain or discomfort whatsoever, and after what seemed a very brief period I was informed that my problem had been identified and a stent had been fitted - I was astounded, it had all seemed so simple. The following day I was discharged.

I turn now to the consultants and nurses of this gold-plated cardiac ward, after first observing that no privately funded medical entity could possibly improve on the care and humanity routinely provided to patients at the Norfolk and Norwich.

Never in my eighty years have I witnessed such utter and selfless dedication - and obvious pleasure - exhibited by the nursing staff - when they made their patients comfortable.

This well-being, and the eventual recovery of the cardiac cases was plainly not just 'part of the job', the wonderful nursing staff share a true sense of vocation, totally unrelated to any sense of financial reward.

Although my stay in hospital was brief, I will never forget any of those ministering to my needs.

Their unfailing cheerfulness and good-natured banter were a boost to the morale.

Two staff nurses in particular affected me very deeply, one although very busy found the time to allay the fears of my wife and myself regarding my condition. She worked at a frenetic pace throughout her twelve and a half hour shifts and always had a happy smile.

One afternoon I even had the temerity to scold her for skipping her 30-minute lunch break.

I was told that some patients complain at the quality of the food provided by the hospital. This is unjust. Meals were always hot and served on time, and a choice of three courses is on a par with some hotels. Reports of poor NHS hospital hygiene certainly do not apply to the Norfolk and Norwich.

Everything was spotless and all surfaces were cleaned daily.

In conclusion, praise is also due to the caterers, cleaners, and the ever-cheerful porters.

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