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Patients let us know what makes a difference – no matter how big or small

Waikato DHB’s Patient Experience Week will kick off Monday 1 May to Friday 5 May based off the success of last year’s week.

Joining in international celebrations, Patient Experience Week provides the opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on the challenges our patients and service users face. It’s also a great way to celebrate just some of the many ways – no matter how big or small – that staff make a difference to anybody’s healthcare experience.

Join us on our Newsroom, Facebook and Instagram pages throughout the week to read about various patient experiences and even share #yourDHByourstory too.

To start the week off early with a sneak peek, here’s one of our first patient experience week stories:

Deanna Burke recaps on some of her experiences with mental health staff

If it hadn’t been for the wonderful caring staff there I would not be alive to tell my story.

Deanna Burke on her experience as a mental health patient

I was admitted to ward 35 at the Henry Bennett Centre over 18 months ago suffering severe depression and mood disorders, with suicidal and self-harm tendencies and eating disorders. I had always struggled with my mental health but it had finally become too much going it alone and I was at absolute rock bottom.

I believe to this day that if it hadn’t been for the wonderful caring staff there I would not be alive to tell my story. They put up with the worst from me. I was unrecognisable to myself and my family, yet this did not stop them from treating me as the decent human I was deep down, hidden by pain.

One vivid memory I will always have is the way the staff physically held me like a child as I screamed and tried to hurt myself, all the while swearing at them and abusing them.

They were so patient, empathetic and caring and for that I owe them my life. The staff reconnected me with my family, helped me to form my own supports in the form of family, and built up my resilience coping strategies to go out into the world and heal.

They gave me the chance to make something of myself. Now, 18 months on I am holding down a steady successful career and am about to purchase my first property. There is always hope, the bad days won’t last forever but taking the first step to healing and asking for help is the hardest part. I did it and came out on top, you can too. Take the time to talk.

Ron Barclay tells us about how the Cardiology team saved his life

I had to put my life in their hands and I’d do it all again.

Ron Barclay Waikato Cardiology Patient

I was told I had only three months to live last year. It was a pretty serious blow to hear that the balloon heart procedure I had didn’t work.

Dr Chris Nunn and Dr Rajesh Nair (Raj) from Cardiology told us about an experimental procedure, that would be the first of its kind in New Zealand.

I said Raj I have full confidence in your team and I was booked for surgery on 19 January 2016. It was the festive season and a difficult time for my wife Heather and I because we didn’t know if we had much time left together.

After surgery, I came out of the theatre and it was like dark to daylight. My perception was absolutely clear with Raj standing at my bedside where he shook my hand – it was a wonderful feeling – knowing I’d made a huge step forward. I went home on the sixth day and within a month I’d walked 350 metres.

It was a pleasure to have such a strong team and I’ve written letters to them all expressing how wonderful it is they saved my life and can provide this opportunity for others. But it was more than just their technical expertise; we really felt that they cared. We still keep in touch with everyone especially our nurse coordinator Kirsty who is wonderful.

We speak on the phone every few weeks and she’ll say “oh good I was going to phone you because the team want to know how you are”. It’s that personal touch that means so much. You can see why this procedure meant so much to me, Heather and our family.

This story isn’t just about my experience; it’s about the way Waikato’s Cardiology team care and by how much for so many other patients, not just me. I realised the only opportunity I had was to put my life in their hands and I’d do it all again because of their professionalism.

We gained a tremendous amount of strength from not any one individual but the whole team.

Hannah talks about the great care they received at Women’s Health

Really happy with the care we received. The speed, control, calmness and care from all the staff was incredible.

Hannah and baby Olivia Women’s Health Patients

I’d taken quite a bad fall and put my hips out that brought on my labour. This changed me and my partner Kieran’s plan to have our baby girl Olivia at River Ridge East Birth
Centre. I was getting excruciating pain in my legs and was taken by ambulance to Waikato Hospital.

The Women’s Health team at hospital were really quick, they put me straight into a room and got an anaesthetist called Amy there within five minutes to treat my pain. Amy
was great, so calm and fast.

Then we had a midwife called Ria. Again she was so lovely and so calm. At this stage I couldn’t feel much, and she just chatted away about so many different things
making us feel relaxed and OK.

It had been a very long time, my heart rate started to go up, I hadn’t dilated properly, and Olivia wasn’t sitting properly. They thought I may have needed a C-section
but thankfully after some medication I was able to deliver Olivia naturally.

There were always lots of medical staff in the room. It was quite serious but we had the best possible care which reduced our worries. The staff gave me confidence
and did everything they could to get Olivia out safely.

There was one obstetrician who was great; she explained everything she was going to do so I wasn’t scared.

A few days later we had to go back to get Olivia’s shoulder checked at NICU. We had a second year student doctor, who was also at the birth, and was
so awesome – she was pretty much another support person for me. I had to stay one night in the Women’s Assessment Unit and the nurses always came within a
couple of minutes to help with things like feeding and changing Olivia.

Really happy with the care we received. The speed, control, calmness and care from all the staff was incredible.

Tanvanya Bennetto talks about her time as a Waikids Day Stay patient

I like being treated like a normal kid, and that’s how the nurses treat me.

Tanvanya Bennetto Waikids Day Stay patient

I am 10 and I have a very rare auto immune condition that only four other people in New Zealand have that we know of. It’s called Opsoclonus Myoclonus syndrome – or dancing eyes, dancing feet.

I come to Waikids Day Stay at Waikato Hospital for treatment every 10 weeks. I have to stay for the whole day.

I like coming to the hospital even though my treatment makes me feel unwell and I get headaches and feel sick for a few days afterwards.

I love the nurses because I know they care about me and they make me feel happy. They bring me presents on my birthday and at Christmas. I feel like I know them.

I’ve been coming here since I was very little and they’ve watched me grow. I really like Wendy and Kat, and Sue who works behind the desk.

When I come to hospital I get to play games and mess up my room. I also come to the Christmas parties and get to laugh at my paediatrician when he dresses up.

Sometimes I go to see the District Nurses. Karen is my District Nurse, she’s funny and makes me smile.

I don’t want to be treated differently. I like being treated like a normal kid, and that’s how the nurses treat me.

Tavanya’s mum, Sharna: “I get treated like one of the staff. They’re very nice. They ask how I am, they supported me when I gave up smoking, and encouraged me when I took up study. It’s just the little things, we’re included in everything.

“They have gone the extra mile by caring. It’s great that staff treat Tavanya like a regular kid and if we need anything they’re there.”

How SmartHealth will be especially useful in winter for Pamela Sharp

I can see it being especially useful in winter, when it’s cold and raining. Not having to come out in bad weather, especially if I’m not very well, will be brilliant.

Pamela Sharp on SmartHealth

Sitting on my deck with a cup of tea is where I have some of my appointments now with my specialist, Dr Kannaiyan Rabindranath.

I received a kidney transplant in 2016 and need ongoing follow up appointments as I recover. I was travelling weekly with three-hour return trips between Rotorua and Hamilton, as well as waiting time in the renal clinic at Waikato Hospital.

Everything changed when I signed up to SmartHealth, powered by HealthTap. I started having online appointments with Dr Rabindranath from home and I’m so grateful because I can easily fit the 10-15minute appointment into my day instead of hours of travelling and waiting.

It’s a brilliant service. I’m still talking one-to-one with Dr Rabindranath, I can ask questions, get answers and we can make a plan for my care. I use a blood pressure monitor connected to my iPhone, which sends readings through to Dr Rabindranath via HealthTap, so he has all the information he needs before each appointment.

It’s all very straightforward and very simple and my partner thinks it’s great too, because he doesn’t have to drive me to Hamilton every time. One appointment used to take two of us out for the day.

I can see it being especially useful in winter, when it’s cold and raining. Not having to come out in bad weather, especially if I’m not very well, will be brilliant.

But while the weather is good, I’ll continue my meetings with Dr Rabindranath from my deck, in a fraction of the time I use to spend in my car.

How the cardiology team were guardian angels for Ms Tamasese

Everyone from the ward nurses and the theatre team were so wonderful that all my family members firmly believed I had guardian angels.

Ms. Fialauia Tamasese

I was a bit apprehensive when first referred to Waikato Hospital because it was in a new city and a different hospital to what I’m used to.

I came to Waikato Hospital because they don’t do this type of heart valve replacement procedure in Wellington.

From the first telephone conversation to the first time I set foot there, I was made to feel very welcomed by the Cardiac team including Dr Sanjeevan Pasupati, Dr Raj Nair, all the nurses, Miriam Friis, and Kirsty Abercrombie. They were all so reassuring and optimistic, never making me feel that my condition was dire. That took away extra stress on my family here and in Samoa not having to make immediate plans for my passing.

Everyone from the ward nurses and the theatre team were so wonderful that all my family members firmly believed I had guardian angels (Kirsty and Miriam) and that the whole Waikato Hospital Cardiac unit perform miracles. Dr Pasupati told me: “The results will be instant” and they miraculously were!

My family and I are eternally grateful. I wish Waikato

Hospital and all its staff continued success in treating patients and finding new ways to save their lives like they did mine.

Nola on her care from Oncology

It felt like a partnership in which I was heard and my opinions, health aspirations and decisions were honoured.

Nola Herrmann Waikato Oncology patient

In 2011 I left the pharmacy profession to pursue my dream of being an early childhood teacher. At that time I was also having difficulty swallowing and my GP referred me to a gastroenterologist who diagnosed oesophageal cancer.

My life felt rudely interrupted because I certainly wasn’t expecting to be a cancer patient especially one with such a poor prognosis. I immediately began simplifying my life and worked hard to maintain my weight and nutritional status as best I could with the tumour blocking my oesophagus.

Chemo and radiotherapy began together in July. Finding myself on ward 25 was a little surreal. I remember hearing a nurse in the next room singing to a patient and I was blown away by that level of love and patient care. There was a cheerful tea lady on the ward who felt like a friend by the end of four treatments. I also had some lovely visits from the Chaplain. I met so many staff members in the Day Stay Unit, the Radiation Oncology Department and in Chemo Outpatients who always treated me with much kindness and respect. They seemed to see me as a person as well as a patient. I was grateful to one particular radiotherapist, who sensed that I was uncomfortable with the speed of the process on the day of the planning CT scan, and allowed me time to pause for a moment and ask questions.

The specialists, doctors, nurses and dietitians were all very supportive and trustworthy. It felt like a partnership in which I was heard and my opinions, health aspirations and decisions were honoured. Reading through the booklet and online blog I created about these experiences reminds me of the efforts of so many DHB staff members and I’m still very grateful for the ways they
went the extra mile on my behalf. I also appreciated the way my privacy was respected by my colleagues in the Pharmacy department.

I managed to maintain a positive outlook most of the time, supported hugely by hospital staff, my family and my community. Now six years on, I’ve never felt healthier and I’m enjoying life! Thanks to you all!

Les on his care from Oncology

I was thankfully released on Christmas Eve after surgery and the fantastic district nurses took the best care of me.

Les George Waikato Oncology patient

Kia orana, in January 2015 I fell off a mountain bike while riding with my 10 year old son. It turned out to be quite a bad crash. The next morning I checked out the damage in the shower and felt a lump on my right thigh. Thinking it was a haematoma; I did the ‘man thing’ and ignored it, hiding it from my partner and family. It never went down and eight months later my partner Sue saw it and made me go and see a GP. I hadn’t seen a GP for 15 years, and in this one visit was referred to a surgeon, Mr Hardy. Within weeks he organised an MRI, CT and biopsy.

It was an absolute whirlwind and my feet had hardly touched the ground knowing that I needed surgery to remove a tumour before Christmas but my family and I were grateful for the speedy process.

I was thankfully released on Christmas Eve after surgery and the fantastic District Nurses (especially Vivian who told me how skilfully my skin graft was done) took the best care of me. She put my mind at ease with that comment.

I then started radiation. It was quite daunting stepping out of the lift and walking to the Lomas building. But thanks to Dr de Groot and the amazing technicians on the radiation machines I always felt so well cared for and was always treated with respect.

I still receive excellent help from Mary-Ann, the Equity and Access Clinical Nurse Specialist. When one of my appointments was postponed it meant changing the three monthly schedule I was supposed to be on for my chest x-rays. After talking to Mary-Ann she was able to sort that out straight away and get me a new appointment. She’s a top lady.

I look forward to the same standard of care for the next four years that will help me on my journey to being cancer free.

Thea on her care from Oncology

I’ve been positive all the time, and it was easier because of the trust I had in the doctors – they know what they’re doing.

Thea Van Rooijen Oncology Patient

In the beginning I wasn’t feeling well and was constantly coughing and itchy all the time, and the doctors didn’t really know what was going on. Then I got jaundice. After various tests and scans the Medical Centre in Tokoroa phoned saying I had to go to Waikato Hospital. That was quite a shock. Then a doctor there said I had pancreatic cancer.

I eventually had surgery to remove the cancer and after 10 plus hours in theatre my husband was worried and phoned the cancer nurse coordinator Shelley who helped calm his nerves. Shelley was so knowledgeable and was at every specialist appointment. Right from the start she said if we had any worries or questions we could ask her anything. Initially we didn’t realise how much we would need Shelley and we were so grateful to have her every step of the way.

I was in hospital for 12 days and the staff really looked after me. I’m still recovering and adjusting to a new way of eating but the dietitian that came to see me was really helpful. I’ve been positive all the time, you just have to be, and it was easier because of the trust I had in the doctors – they know what they’re doing. Just seeing my surgeon Mr Reid gave me confidence; he’s such an optimistic person.

I remember one time I didn’t understand an explanation I was given about what was going on and I said “well I just don’t understand those terms” asking the doctor to please write it down, so he drew a really good diagram. This was also helpful for showing my friends and family about why and how they operated; which was called the Whipple procedure.

And last, but not least, I always found the ladies who wore the brown uniforms and brought the tea in the morning amazing. The atmosphere was a happy one when they opened the curtains and windows each morning with a smile and always asked “hello how is everybody this morning?” – it would brighten the start of my day.

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