"Mitral valve repair surgery."

About: Aberdeen Royal Infirmary / Cardiology / Coronary Care Unit

(as the patient),

I underwent cardiac surgery. Prior to the operation I had been advised by the surgeon, Mr. Buchan, that his option was to either repair or replace with a prosthetic one, my heart's mitral valve. I was surprisingly fit before the operation having lived with the problem for sixteen years.

Upon completion of the four hour long procedure, I awoke in the ICU to be told by Mr. Buchan that a repair had proved successful. Thereafter followed days of recovery.

The good points? To begin with, any patient admitted to the North of Scotland Cardiothiracic Unit at ARI should have nothing to fear. The care and skill shown by Mr. Buchan and his theatre team cannot in any ways be criticised.

Mr. Buchan himself proved to be the epitome of a gentleman yet not masking risks, potential downfalls and the slog that recovery would be. A quite, unassuming professional to say the least.

Secondly, the nursing staff very much lived up to the 'Angel' sobriquet in the care shown to me. The dedicated nurse in ICU that greeted me on my return to consciousness I only know as May but between her and her colleague, Michelle, they tended to my every need and assisted when pain (which was not so dreadfully bad) became too much. I shall never forget such kindness that was far more than mere clinical professionalism.

In HDU following my transfer there on the day after the operation, the same level of professionalism and genuine compassion was evident; one of the staff nurses was an experienced nurse - Audrey - and she helped me during my worst phase (when I received a blood transfusion and felt absolutely rotten for a full day) with a mixture of touching kindness, professional clinical care and a firm no-nonsense hand. Was soon told off should I be seen not to be helping myself! Again, here is a lady whom I can never forget and like her colleagues in ICU, cannot thank enough.

Finally, my final five days were spent on Ward 216. Here again, the staff were thoroughly wonderful and nothing ever seemed too much of a burden (even though I'm sure it must have been given the demands laid upon them for what seems little reward compared with other public sector employees). There are too many to name but that does not mean to state their contribution to my care was in any ways less than elsewhere.

I could write pages more about the staff, such was the impression they made upon me.

The other aspect of life at ARI that I could not help but observe was the commitment to hygiene and infection control. First class and something other NHS trusts could learn from.

The bad points? The first is, of course, an opinion - and one that may differ greatly from other patients. That is, of course, the catering. I did not look forward to mealtimes whatsoever owing to food either being overlooked (vegetables particularly) or overladen with salt content. The potatoes proved to be bland and tasteless and, being a country lad, could only compare them with those that would have traditionally been mashed up into poultry food. In other words, cheap brands barely suitable for human consumption. During one meal I encountered a very generous portion of salmon steak. That proved inedible owing, the fish tasting as if it had been pickled in brine. Similarly, ham salad was awful, the ham again being 'bargain-basement' quality and heavily salted. By the time Of my discharge, I genuinely felt nauseous at the prospect of lunch or high tea. Breakfast proved okay - but then again one can't really make a mess of bran flakes or toast! Finally, as regards food, those items that could have been more acceptable (eg 'fresh fish') lost a lot of nutritional value by being kept heated during its journey from kitchen to ward - on arrival fish could be dried out an 'curly').

As regards the hospital environment, whilst I appreciate that substantial changes were underway with the cardiac ward having been temporarily relocated, small matters like being kept in a ward with no opening windows and an air conditioning system that failed for a 24 hour spell must demand addressing by NHS managers. My final two days in an environment such as that was absolute torture. Even staff commented on the problem. I am not a medical clinician, but I have a sufficient understanding of biology to realise that such us a breeding ground for all manner of bacteria or virus. No fresh air, no access to coolness save for some feeble fans that were in short supply, unbelievably high temperatures - it was dreadful and unpleasant.

Thus my experience was overall positive. Clinical care and nursing would be, I would contend, difficult to find anywhere else. Hygiene was as it should be - excellent. However, food and ward environment was very disappointing.

On a final note, wouldn't it be conducive to recovery if blank spaces on ward walls could be adorned with some appealing images? After all, we live in a beautiful part of the country (a few landscape photographic canvases would be nice) with wonderful wildlife (imagine waking up to see a handsome Golden Eagle or Roe Deer fawn? ). That's just an optional thought!

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Response from Linda Oldroyd, Nurse Consultant, Person Centred Care, NHS Grampian

Dear Daibhidh

Many thanks for taking time out to post your feedback on Patient Opinion. Thank you for the praise and thank you too for the constructive criticism. I will ensure that all the departments and staff involved are made aware of your kind words and comments. If any of them individually wish to respond I will facilitate them to do so.

Mr Buchan and the theatre team will no doubt consider that they are just doing their jobs but at the same time I am sure they will be very happy to have their skill and dedication publicly acknowledged.

From ICU, to HDU and on to ward 216 you describe excellence in care and compassion which is what we hope for all our patients. We health care professionals can learn a lot from stories such as yours. They remind us of what matters to patients. Kindness and compassion should always be part of the overall care experience.

I read into your story that the impact our staff had on you was such that you will never forget them. Clearly a credit to the professions they represent.

You also comment on the cleanliness of our hospital and again, it goes without saying that this should always be the norm. However, thank you for mentioning it. This is an area where we always strive to do better.

The Catering Department tries very hard to produce tasty and nutritious meals at scale and it is far from an easy task. They will be disappointed to read your comments. I will, as I said earlier, invite the Catering Department to respond to your feedback.

We would encourage anyone who encounters problems with the food served in our hospitals to speak to the nurse in charge. The nurse in charge can then pass on the comments to the catering department in real time giving better opportunities to address problems and identify improvements.

There is an on-going programme of up-grading and maintenance on the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary Site. We are very aware of the temperature issues and do all we can to alleviate conditions with fans and access to cold water. We do recognise that this is an issue for staff and patients alike, especially in some of the older parts of the buildings. We are very sorry that this had a negative impact on your overall experience.

I will pass on your comments about the blank walls to the Grampian Hospitals Arts Trust. The Trust is responsible for art work throughout all the hospitals in Grampian. We have some excellent examples in parts of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary but clearly not in the areas where you were cared for.

Many thanks again for your feedback and helpful suggestions.

I hope you are well on the road to recovery after your surgery.

Kindest regards,

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