Thrill-seeking daughter to abseil St Thomas' Hospital in thanks to staff

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Natasha Barreto with mum Judy

The daughter of a south London hairdresser who was in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital is making a fundraising leap of love.

“Daredevil” Natasha Barreto, 34, and three of her family will launch themselves from the top of the hospital building and descend 160 feet with views of The Thames, Parliament and the South Bank.

They are doing the abseil on 11 September to raise money for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, and have so far made more than half of their £2,000 target.

The family was inspired to undertake the charity challenge after Natasha’s mum Judy Barreto, 58, spent six weeks in intensive care earlier this year.

Judy, who runs Cutting Edge hair salon in Welling, had a heart attack in April, and was taken to St Thomas’ Hospital. Due to the severity of her condition, she was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and put in an induced coma. While there, she also had two strokes.

As part of her treatment, Judy underwent extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). This is a temporary life support system for patients whose heart and lungs have stopped working properly. It takes blood and uses an artificial lung to add oxygen and remove carbon dioxide before returning it to the patient. St Thomas’ is a leading ECMO centre in the UK.

Despite being very poorly, Judy made what Natasha described as a “miraculous” recovery, and was able to leave hospital in June.

Natasha, an insurance underwriter who lives in Greenwich, said she and her family wanted to give back to staff at the hospital for the care they gave to Judy.

She said: “Mum was extremely ill. She spent six weeks in intensive care and a further two weeks at St Thomas’. As a family we were absolutely heartbroken, but as each day passed, we were so comforted watching all of the incredible staff take such good care of mum.

“We will never forget their endless kindness and compassion during their long shifts away from their own families, especially throughout the night we were called to the hospital to say goodbye as they did not think mum would make it until the morning.

“At a time when there is so much uncertainty, the ICU staff gave us peace of mind each day, knowing mum was safe in their hands. We will never be able to thank them enough for saving her and will be forever in their debt. Without their care, mum wouldn’t be here.”

One of Judy’s doctors was Dr Chris Meadows, intensive care, anaesthesia and ECMO consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’ – and a previous participant in the charity abseil.

Natasha said: “All of mum’s consultants were incredible, and mum made a miraculous turnaround while she was under Dr Meadows’ care. He gave her time, explained everything thoroughly to us and answered our long list of questions and concerns.”

Dr Meadows said: “I’m delighted that Judy has recovered after being so unwell. I wish her and her family all the best for the future. We’re grateful to them for taking part in the abseil, and hope they enjoy themselves. From experience I know the hardest bit is stepping off the top!”

Natasha said she and her family are looking forward to the challenge, adding: “As a family, we promised we would fundraise for the hospital, to thank them for saving mum. When we heard about the chance to abseil down the hospital, we couldn’t think of a better adventure.

“As the daredevil of the family, I’ve done bungee jumps and descended the Orbit in Stratford before, but this will be extra special, having my family by my side and below cheering us on.”

The St Thomas’ abseil is a flagship fundraising event run by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. After a break last year, the annual event has returned for 2021. All money raised will support expert care, life-saving research and specialist equipment that transforms the lives of patients and NHS staff.

You can donate through Natasha’s Just Giving page, and find out more about the abseil on the charity’s website.

Last updated: September 2021

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