Brother thanks NHS staff with 160 feet fundraising abseil

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Matt and Tasha wearing matching red Guy's & St Thomas' Charity t-shirts, stood on the roof of St Thomas' Hospital.

Matt and Tasha on the roof of St Thomas' Hospital

A man has given thanks to critical care staff at a London hospital who cared for his brother by abseiling 160 feet for charity.

Matt Hardy, from Maidstone in Kent, was joined by partner Tasha to take on the St Thomas’ Abseil, which saw around 400 thrill-seeking participants’ abseil down St Thomas’ Hospital on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 September.

On 18 June 2021, Matt’s older brother Lewis came under the care of St Thomas’ Hospital after he fell into the River Medway from Maidstone Bridge while coming home from a football game with friends.

Lewis was pulled out of the river by police officers who were patrolling the bridge and was given CPR at the scene. When an ambulance arrived, he needed to be put on mechanical ventilation to control his breathing and was then taken by air ambulance to King’s College Hospital where his condition was deemed to be critical.

Lewis, 26, sustained a series of different injuries from the accident including severe respiratory failure, hypoxic brain Injury and acute kidney injury. Matt, 25, said: “Me and my mum went to see him in hospital the following morning. Throughout the day he was showing little signs of response and we were told he might not make it.”

Later that evening, the family received a phone call from Dr Chris Meadows, consultant in ECMO and intensive care. He explained that Lewis would be placed on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine and then transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) at St Thomas’.

ECMO is a form of life-support for some patients with the most severe forms of respiratory or cardiac failure. ECMO allows injured lungs to recover by temporarily taking over the oxygenation and carbon dioxide removal.

Matt, along with his mum and dad, visited Lewis at St Thomas’ the next day where his care team explained what was happening to Lewis and what to expect. As well as ECMO, Lewis was receiving dialysis for his kidneys, put on a ventilator to support his breathing and was placed on numerous drugs to fight infections.

They were all working so hard to save Lewis

Window fitter Matt said: “Though it was obviously such a scary time for the family, the staff at St Thomas’ were so calm no matter the situation. We were always kept up to date and they were really good with all of the different questions we had. They were all working so hard to save Lewis.”

Lewis’ condition remained critical for that first week, but he slowly began to show some signs of improvement and was able to be weaned off the ECMO machine. After 10 days, he could start to come off the ventilator and a fortnight later, he was transferred to Maidstone Hospital. Lewis remained at Maidstone Hospital from mid-July until late August before moving to a rehabilitation unit where he stayed until May this year.

Now over a year later, Lewis is continuing to make strides with his rehabilitation. Matt said: “If you’d seen Lewis a year ago, you wouldn’t believe how well he’s doing now. After the accident, we were concerned that the lack of oxygen might affect his brain in the long-term.

“When he was sedated he was extremely confused and at one point thought I was still working in a job that I’d left five years ago. It turned out it was because of the effect the sedation had on his system.

“He’s now back to his old self, still taking the mick out of me and having a laugh like he always has. He’s had to relearn to walk and is still undergoing a lot of physio but he’s so determined. He’s working towards getting back to driving, which is something he’s always loved.”

Matt took on the fundraising abseil as a way to say thank you to the critical care team at St Thomas’ Hospital that saved his brother’s life. He said: “Without them, Lewis wouldn’t be here. When we first saw him on that Saturday, it really was touch and go. The expertise of all of the staff is why he’s alive today and I don’t have the words to thank them.”

Matt and partner Tasha have raised over £1,000 for Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity by taking part in this year’s annual St Thomas’ Abseil.

Matt said: “It was a great experience and it’s nice to do something fun whilst raising money for such a worthwhile cause. Tasha and myself were so pleased to have exceeded our fundraising target and are so grateful for the opportunity. It was an added bonus having great views of London up top.”

Matt and Tasha were joined by Lewis on the day, who visited the hospital for the first time since he was discharged from ICU. Lewis said: “It was a really good day. Great watching Matt and Tasha doing a brilliant thing for such a worthy cause.

“On the day, I went to the ICU where I was treated. Even though I thought I didn’t remember anything as I was sedated the whole time, as soon as I heard all of the machines beeping, it brought it back to me.

“It was really good to see it all and properly meet the staff who cared for me and see the ECMO machine that saved my life. It really brought home how grateful I am to everyone. I can’t thank Dr Meadows, Dr Slack, Dr Tricklebank, all of the nurses and everyone else who looked after me enough.”

Dr Meadows said: “We’re extremely grateful to Matt and Tasha for taking on the St Thomas’ Abseil in support of the ECMO service. On behalf of the whole team, I’d like to say thank you and wish them the best of luck.

“For many people there continue to be challenges following intensive care but it is fantastic to see Lewis doing so well with his recovery and rehabilitation. His determination and the support of his family and friends are in no small way responsible for that. We wish him all the best.”

To donate to Matt and Tasha’s fundraiser, visit JustGiving.

Last updated: October 2022

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