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Patient thanks respiratory nurses

Sandra and Kirsty

A Swansea Bay respiratory failure patient has thanked a team of nurses, who she has likened to angels, for keeping her alive.

Sandra Frohwein is just one of many who have benefitted from a new initiative - which sees respiratory failure patients receive non-invasive ventilation at home rather than being admitted to hospital - since it was set up during the pandemic.

Now the 75-year-old hopes the team can help her reach her 80s so she can wave her great-granddaughter off to her school prom.

Sandra, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), has made several visits to Morriston Hospital’s Emergency Department over the years leading to hospital stays but these days is treated at home.

She said: “I have been rushed into hospital three times over the last seven years or so, ending up in intensive care, as I live with COPD.

“The last time the paramedic told my husband that he didn’t think I was going to make it.

“When I wake up in the morning I say ‘Thank God. Another day.’

“I’m 76 this year and if I can go to 81, and see my great-granddaughter, Caitlyn, leave school and go to her prom, I will be happy.”

Sandra has been given a non-invasive ventilation machine to help regulate the amount of poisonous carbon dioxide in her blood and replenish her oxygen levels.

The machine works at night and she sleeps with a facemask on.

She also receives regular visits from members of Swansea Bay’s respiratory team and support is only a phone call away.

Praising the team she said: “This team means everything. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today.

“If I have a problem I only have to pick up the phone and they answer straight away. If they are busy I leave a message and they ring straight back. I haven’t got to wait a day or two.

“Before this team was set up I would be ringing an ambulance and be on my way to hospital.

“They are out of this world. If it wasn’t for them, I think so many people would have passed away by now. I know I would have and I can’t thank them enough. They are like angels.

“They are so helpful and so kind. You can rely on them.”

The community-based team was established at the height of the pandemic when it became necessary to lessening hospital pressures and reducing the risks of Covid spreading to patients.

Respiratory nurse specialist, Kirsty Eastwood, said: “We had to discover a different model of care for these patients. We devised an initiative where we were able to safely commence this therapy in the patient's home using a start and support model of care.

“There was no requirement to come to hospital as a day case and these patients could still receive this essential therapy at a time where things felt so uncertain for this group of vulnerable patients.”

The non-invasive ventilation team, based in Singleton Hospital, has always existed but it only began treating patients in their homes during the pandemic.

Kirsty said: “It was never done at home and it never had the same support network. It was not a community model but due to the pandemic, there were no beds and NIV was considered a high-risk procedure as it was aerosol generating and would spread Covid much quicker.

“It was safer and easier to do it at home. And that’s what we’ve done.”

Kirsty said that hearing such praise made the job worthwhile.

She said: “As a small respiratory team, we always strive to do the very best for our patients. To hear this from Sandra means the world to us and we feel so lucky to be able to help people in the way that we do.

“Knowing that I have truly made a difference to patients' lives completely validates why I am in this profession and why I love being a nurse.”

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