Always in our hearts

3 June 2020

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic staff at the Royal Free London have shown their utter determination to go the extra mile for their patients, however challenging the circumstances.

From taking deliveries of phones for patients from their families and friends to getting messages of support to loved ones and making tablets accessible to support communications,  the Royal Free London is committed to finding ways for families to be virtually present with patients and to arrange a visit if the patient is in the last days of life.

Now Deborah Kirby, intensive care matron for Barnet Hospital, has revealed what she came up with to do something to help families who had lost a loved one to the disease and were unable to spend any significant time together at the end. She researched on the internet and found out a couple of other trusts had started making knitted pairs of hearts – one that could be placed in the deceased patient’s palm and the other sent to the next of kin, to act as a keepsake.

Due to strict rules surrounding visiting which means a patient with COVID-19 is only allowed to have one visitor at the end of their life – Deborah felt there was a huge gap for families.

Deborah said: “I was sent a pair of knitted hearts and didn’t know what it was all about so I researched it on the internet and saw that a couple of trusts had already initiated a scheme to try and connect patients with their loved ones, even before COVID-19. I felt at this terrible time it was a way that we could show how much we care for our patients and their families. I felt it was really important for us to do this.

“As healthcare practitioners one of the hardest things has not being able to have the relatives with us as previously that’s how we’ve got to know the patient. In the past the family and loved ones have been the ones to tell us about the patient so we can build a connection – even things like how the person liked their hair styled. We want to know we are getting it right – it really matters to us.”

Deborah adds: “We’ve all thought about how we would feel not being able to be with our nearest and dearest. I know I’d want to know how much they are being cared for and looked after individually. This is something that staff have done themselves and I’ve heard their neighbours have helped as well.”

“We have staff who liaise with the family such as arranging times for the doctors to call and pass on messages. This is something they have also gladly taken on as well to see if families are interested.

“I felt that this gesture was a little thing but it would speak volumes.”

Picture caption: L-R: Intensive care unit matron Deborah Kirby and nurse Angel Adan, a member of the patient/family liaison team on ITU with a pair of knitted hearts.