Monthly Consultations in Belfast, Northern Ireland23 September 2019 by Petra Erving
Do you live in Northern Ireland? Do you have lymphoedema or lipoedema? Have you had a surgical procedure and have postoperative swelling? Do you have unexplained swelling in your legs?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, then the good news is, I can help. From January 2020, I will be consulting in Belfast.
Eight years ago I moved from Northern Ireland to England to gain more experience in working with complex lymphoedema and in treating postoperative patients. I was extremely lucky to get my first job in the lymphoedema department in St George’s hospital in Tooting. This was the best and steepest learning curve I’ve experienced in my professional life. I had one day of observing, then I was pretty well thrown in at the deep end. In saying that, there was always someone at hand to ask advice if and when I needed it. The first patient whose care I was involved with had fallen down an external, metal stairwell seriously damaging his legs. His wounds were so severe that following failed plastic surgery skin grafting, this gentleman was told he would most likely have to have his lower legs amputated. The clinical lead in the lymphoedema clinic told those surgeons that she could help this man and with multi-layer bandaging and expert wound care, he would keep his legs. Before going into the treatment cubicle, I was warned about the state of his legs. I put on what I thought was my best poker face and prepared myself for the sight I was about to see. Well, nothing could prepare me what I saw in front of me - and when I left St Georges 6 months later, the patient told me the look on my face was a sight to behold! I must remember never to play poker!
However, despite my obvious look of shock, I felt incredibly privileged to have been involved this lovely man’s care. Working alongside the wound care nurses, another therapist and I looked after and changed his dressings daily and then wrapped his legs from toes to below his knees in multi-layer bandages. It was amazing to see the wounds close over, very gradually. So wonderful and fascinating to see how this treatment benefited this man and ultimately, saved his legs.
This was one of a number of patients with complex conditions which caused and were the cause of lymphoedema. I learned more in the 6 months I worked there than most lymphoedema therapists will do in a lifetime of working with lymphoedema patients. Sandy Ellis, who was the Nurse Clinical Lead, ruled the department with an iron rod. But, she was brilliant when it came to wound care and lymphoedema. She frightened me a wee bit, but I was also quite in awe of her, of her experience and her knowledge. I’m glad to say that Sandy asked me to personally look after one of her patients, a lady who was partially paralyzed from the waist down, and had lymphoedema in her legs. We had to maneuver her into a treatment bed with a hoist, then I bandaged her legs and taught her daughter how to bandage. I must have passed Sandy’s test, as I was asked to continue with this patients care.
During my time there, the other therapists encouraged me to ask Professor Mortimer if I could spend an afternoon observing him in clinic.Prof Mortimer is the God of lymphoedema in the UK. What he doesn’t know about lymphoedema isn’t worth knowing. Again, I was a bit in awe. I felt I was in the presence of a rock star! But, he was so lovely. Not what you expect a Professor to be like. I was expecting someone to be a bit up himself, if you know what I mean. Not in the slightest. He was friendly, personable, chatty wanting to know where I came from and why I’d moved to England. Sitting in on his clinic was fascinating: how he assessed each patient, his gentle bit firm manner when he was explaining about the condition and about the treatment going forward. My time spent in St Georges give me passion for the care that I could give these unfortunate patients.
Sadly, circumstances meant I couldn’t stay in St Georges longer than the 6 months. However, I was lucky enough to secure a job in Meadow House Hospice Lymphoedema Clinic in Ealing Hospital. I was there for 4 years. At the same time, I joined London Bridge Plastic Surgery in Wimpole Street where I integrated MLD in the patients postop care package. Patients loved this as it helped them return to normal activities more quickly.
In April 2015, I set up Medical Therapies. Initially I was based in 108 Harley Street in the London Breast Clinic where I got referrals from Consultant Oncologists and Breast Surgeons. My practice was growing very nicely. I had just been awarded practicing privileges to practice in the renowned London Clinic, when I got a call from the Parapet Breast Clinic in Windsor asking if I would help them out as their lymphoedema nurse had retired and they hadn’t been able to find a replacement. Of course, I was happy to help. Gradually and very steadily the referrals came. Initially, I was able to see patients in the evenings and weekends at my home or when I wasn’t in Harley Street. But it got to the point that I had to make a decision on whether to continue with both clinics. I had become too busy to be able to manage both. I was reluctant to give up Harley Street as it had flourished through my own hard work and the Maidenhead ‘practice’ had kind of fallen on my lap. The thought of no more commuting up to London made my decision for me and so for the next 2 years I was a sub-contractor for the NHS providing a service for 200 breast cancer related lymphoedema patients and approximately 50 primary and other cancer related lymphoedema patients.
That contract ended 2 years ago. I learned a lot about how the NHS work and the CCGs. For the past 2 years, I have been very happy working on my own again in Maidenhead. I have a lovely mix of patients, not all lymphoedema. Some come for general health & well-being lymphatic massage. I see postop patients again and I do some general, relaxation massage also. I work the hours I want and at last have a great work/life balance. The perfect scenario for someone self-employed.
However, my heart is still in Northern Ireland. My family are still there and my daughter has just returned to go to University. I have had various people suggest I do a monthly clinic in Belfast, which at first I poopoo’d. Now though, my other half and I have thoughts of returning to Northern Ireland when he retires in 2021 and therefore my reason for now advertising my monthly clinics in Belfast.
So, if you have private health insurance and would like to have private treatment for your lymphoedema. Or, if you are having NHS treatment but would like ‘top-up’ private treatment, then I can help. If you have lipoedema or aren’t sure if you have lipoedema and would like some clarification on the condition, I can help. If you’ve had or are intending on having a surgical procedure and would like to return to normal activities sooner, then I can help get rid of your swelling more quickly. Plus, I can help with any bothersome scar tissue.
How do you go about making an appointment? Well, its easy. Just give me a call. We can have a chat and then plan an appointment. My number is 07762 386896 or send a quick email to email@example.com
I look forward to hearing from you and being able to help.