King’s Critical Care Appeal

Helen’s story

Helen Doyle explains how her life-saving treatment at King’s means she could run again.

‘When I was 21 I was diagnosed with a hole in my heart which was formed at birth, despite having no symptoms growing up and being a keen runner throughout my late teens and early twenties.

‘My condition deteriorated and when I was 23, I ended up needing open heart surgery to repair the hole and a valve. I had a very slow recovery, but all went well and I was able to run the London Marathon 15 months later for the Royal Brompton where I had my treatment.

‘Later that year, in October 2016, I started struggling to walk due to cramping in my legs. I assumed it was pulled muscles and ignored it, until it became nearly impossible to walk and my feet began going numb. My GP sent me to King’s College Hospital A&E where it was found that the main arteries going to each leg were completely blocked with blood clots. After a full body CT scan, I was told that the clots most likely formed in my heart and had also travelled to and damaged my spleen and right kidney.

‘I was told that they would try a minimally invasive procedure called Thrombolysis to remove the clots but there was a 50/50 chance that it wouldn’t work due to how long they had been there. If it didn’t work I would need bypass surgery on both legs, and they said it would be highly unlikely that I would be able to run again. Thankfully, the Thrombolysis procedures were successful.

‘The overriding light from the whole experience were the nurses and doctors in Jack Steinberg Ward and throughout the hospital at King’s. They were all incredible and I felt completely overwhelmed with gratitude for how they treated me and my family. They didn’t treat me like I was just another patient, they asked me questions about my life and ambitions, they spoke to me like I was their friend, they shared jokes with me and explained what was happening to me in terms I could understand.

‘A new Critical Care Centre will be so important for not only the patients, but for their families and for the nursing staff too. My memories of the current Critical Care Unit are quite disjointed. It was hard to distinguish between day and night, so having huge windows overlooking the park will massively help with the mental wellbeing of those who find themselves awake during their stay. The roof garden will also provide a much needed space not only for patients to be able to feel fresh air, but for families to be able to have some time to reflect without having to go too far from their loved ones.

In our new Critical Care Centre, we want every room to have floor-to-ceiling windows, looking out over the park. Our goal is to dramatically reduce the damaging effects on patients of their experience of critical care. You can help make this a reality.