By Liz Crudgington
NHS staff are appealing for crafty volunteers to spread some love by creating hearts for patients and their relatives during the coronavirus outbreak.
Visiting is severely restricted across East Kent Hospitals, in line with national guidelines, so Trust staff hope giving patients and their loved ones matching fabric hearts will help them feel connected.
The idea was introduced by QEQM intensive care nurse Kat Lamb, who hopes it will bring comfort to relatives who can’t visit due to coronavirus restrictions.
She said: “While we are always there with our patients, caring for them, it’s not the same as having the hand of a loved one to hold.
“But by giving the patient a heart, and sending a matching one to their family, it can help them feel like they have an emotional link, and a small token to focus on.”
Kat, 23, who lives in Margate, posted about her idea on Facebook and was inundated with offers from people wanting to help. The hearts are quarantined for seven days before they are given to the patient, to ensure any risk of infection is minimised.
Kat said: “Normally relatives are with their loved ones in our critical care units all the time but that just isn’t possible at the moment.
“It’s heart-breaking for them, and it’s difficult for us as nurses too, so I hope this is one way of making the situation a tiny bit more bearable.”
Staff are using video calls to keep families updated about their loved one’s condition, while some families are recording CDs of music and conversation to be played to patients.
Kat said: “Our patients are never alone but anything we can do to help families feel more connected is a bonus at this particularly difficult time.
“Not everyone will want a heart but I hope some people find it comforting and appreciate the gesture and the thought behind it.”
Hearts can be knitted, crochet, embroidered, fabric or felt, and each heart should have at least one matching pair. The team will send up to three to relatives.
They should be sent to the palliative care teams at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent and Canterbury Hospital or Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.