Excellence in Care: Carer Perspective
Still Here, Still Ready
Michelle McGinty, who lost her mother-in-law in the Vale of Leven Hospital C. diff outbreak, reflects on the past and sets out her hopes for the future.
On 1 December 2007, my mother-in-law was rushed to hospital having had a stroke. She was paralysed down her left side but still had all her faculties - she was just as funny as she always had been, just a normal, strong, west coast woman.
We were told two weeks after she was admitted that she wasn't going to improve - she wouldn't get worse, but she wouldn't get better either. We were happy with that - we just wanted to take her home and have our mum back.
A care plan was put in place and we were waiting on equipment being delivered to my sister-in-law's house, where the family would look after her. That's when she caught C. diff. She died a week later, on 1 February 2008.
The last week of her life was horrific. It's imprinted on our memories and will never leave us.
We buried her and determined to try to move on, accepting that death is part of life. Then, four months later, a newspaper report told us there had been a C. diff outbreak at the Vale of Leven Hospital when she was there. The health board said that her death wasn't part of the outbreak - she did not have the 027 strain, so she didn't "count". We were appalled.
I researched everything I could about C. diff on the internet and found that any strain of the organism - not just 027 - can kill. Then it was reported that 55 families of patients at the Vale had gone through what we had gone through.
The families got together and we started to tell our stories. As we did so, we got angry - not with anyone or anything in particular, but at what we realised was the same thing happening again and again. To hear one story was to hear them all, they were so similar.
Our fight for justice started then. That fight has never been about blame - who is that going to help? It has always been about change. And if what we've done as a group means that no other family ever has to go through what we went through, then we've done the right thing.
Our fight for a public inquiry took two and a half years. Giving our evidence was hurtful - going back to those dark days - but hearing evidence from nurses was even harder. We had always recognised there had been failings in care, but to hear that our loved ones had developed pressure sores, that their fluid balance charts had not been filled in, that some of the patients, including my mother-in-law, were still given laxatives even though they had C. diff diarrhoea - I think it is a huge credit to the families to have heard that evidence and still say, "We do not want to blame anyone."
When we read the inquiry report, there were no shocks for us - we knew it all already. It provided absolute validation that everything we had said and fought for over the previous seven years was true.
Every time we put members of our families into a care setting, we have to be able to absolutely trust the people caring for them. That trust has been lost a bit over the last few years, but we want to work with you to change things for the better - we're not looking for people's heads. So I would say to everyone attending this event and the wider healthcare community, show us your desire to change things for the better, show us that you will not tolerate another Vale of Leven situation happening ever again.
The most important thing about care assurance for me is that it means we can be confident that you will look after our loved ones with as much care and attention as we would at home. The families are still here and we're ready to help - when we say we want to change things, we really mean it.
Email: Jan Liddle
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