70 years of NHS care – our patients in their own words

As patients, their families, staff and volunteers come together to celebrate 70 years of NHS care, three patients reflect on how specialists at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals have saved their lives and provided lifelong care.

Marking the launch of a brand new series of patient stories in their own words, the blogs include:

Steve Syer, 76, had a heart transplant in 1984 at Harefield Hospital, making him one of the longest surviving patients

“I was rushed, blue lights blazing, to Harefield Hospital where I first met the surgeon, Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub. I asked the nurse how I’d recognise him, and she said, ‘You will just know. He has a presence about him.’

“It was true. He popped his head around the door, and we knew. After talking to me for a little while, Magdi went quiet. Then he simply said the words: ‘We’ll do it.’”

Cathryn Ramsden, 43, underwent cardiac surgery at Royal Brompton hospital in 1978, when she was three

“I was born with a hole in my heart and a leaking aortic valve; we were referred to Royal Brompton Hospital for my surgery; in 1978 it was cutting edge stuff.

“Obviously, I was very little, so my main recollection is eyeing the gorgeous rocking horse in the hallway of the waiting room.

“But my parents remember the experience much better. I can see how traumatic it would have been for them. Apparently, the night before my surgery we stayed up praying. I sat up and said, ‘I’m going to see Jesus tomorrow.’

“This obviously alarmed them! On the day of the operation itself, the staff – a little bizarrely – advised my parents to go to Harrods to look at the fish display.

“The nurses told them to go and look at the fish and come back and tell them about it – I’m guessing this was the staff’s go-to distraction technique for anxious parents!” 

Andrew Watson, 49, a patient of both Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals. He has cystic fibrosis and underwent a lung transplant last year

“This has only been possible because of the brilliance and care of all the medical staff at both Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals.

“At Royal Brompton, the CF specialist team comprising Dr Khin Gyi, Dr Nicholas Simmonds and Dr Andy Jones; dietitian Sarah Collins; physiotherapists Helen Parrott, Zelda Beverley and Charlotte Gray in more recent times, have all been fantastic.

“The nurses cannot go without mention. They were always willing to help, highly professional and worked such long shifts too. They are like the glue who stick everything together.

“At Harefield Hospital the levels of care, knowledge and professionalism are exceptional and I cannot thank the team enough.

“It is a very special place. It was where my life was changed.”

Read these blogs, plus reflections from world-leading experts at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals