Dedicated staff in the Royal Bournemouth Hospital’s Acute Medical Unit (AMU) diagnosed and treated an emergency patient with a rare life threatening condition in time to save her life and personally escort her to her daughter’s wedding.
Grandmother and mum of three Frances Wilkins, 56, had been plagued with a range of seemingly unrelated symptoms over two months and was rushed into AMU in July with an acute headache and loss of movement in both her arms.
Staff worked round the clock to get to the root of Frances’ condition as distraught daughter Elizabeth Bolton saw the chances of her mum being able to attend her wedding narrow by the minute.
Elizabeth said: “Dr Tanzeem Raza came to check up on mum on Friday afternoon and I just told him to get my mum well as I was supposed to be getting married the next Friday. I couldn’t imagine mum not being there on the most important day of my life.
“Dr Raza said he would try to find a magic wand – little did we all know he would actually set a miracle in motion that night.”
When tests for infections, cancers and meningitis failed to identify the cause of Frances’ symptoms, AMU Consultant Dr Raza requested a specialist MRI scan that Friday evening.
He said: “I spoke urgently with my radiology colleague, Dr Paula McAlinden, who went out of her way to perform a very specific type of MRI scan which is generally not available out of hours.”
The results of Frances’ MRI scan were so unusual, Consultant Radiologist Dr McAlinden phoned Dr Raza at his home explaining Frances’ results were unlike any she had seen before.
Frances was then diagnosed with ‘Churg-Strauss’ syndrome – an extremely rare life-threatening disease attacking the respiratory system and vital organs – and was immediately started on a course of treatment that saw her turn a corner.
Frances said: “The team in AMU were fantastic pushing through my scan outside of normal hours – if they hadn’t diagnosed me when they did, I either would have had very severe brain damage or not been here at all.
“There aren’t many people in the world who have Churg-Strauss syndrome and Dr Raza’s diagnosis was life-saving.”
Despite improving after treatment, Frances was left severely weakened. AMU staff set up an iPad with ‘Facetime’ for Frances to watch her daughter’s wedding over the internet from her hospital bed, but they were determined to get her there in person.
AMU Sister Kelly Spaven reorganised the rotas to ensure Frances could be escorted to the wedding by staff nurse Beth Tucker, who had played a big role in looking after her in hospital. On Friday 2 August Beth did Frances’ hair, nails and make up for the occasion and they travelled together by ambulance to her daughter’s wedding.
Kelly said: “Frances being rushed into hospital was a horrible scenario for the whole family and if there was one thing that we could have done to improve things, getting Frances to the wedding was it. I am so proud of my team as everyone went out of their way to ensure this could happen.”
Bride Elizabeth said: “I didn’t know mum was going to be there until the last minute. When I’d walked down the aisle, I just ran over and gave her a big hug, it was really emotional.”
Frances added: “This hospital has been fantastic and the care I received on AMU was outstanding, especially the way they got me to the wedding. It was way beyond their jobs and I wouldn’t have made it to the wedding without them.”