We’re delighted to announce that Sharon Manning, Macmillan Gynaecology Clinical Nurse Specialist at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, and The Lymphoedema Network Wales Team under the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board are both finalists in the Macmillan Innovation Excellence Award category.
Clinical Nurse Specialist Sharon developed a pioneering service to improve the quality of life for women with ovarian cancer who are at the end of life.
Women with advanced ovarian cancer can suffer from a build-up of fluid from their abdomens, which can cause physical side effects such as breathlessness, loss of appetite and loss of physical ability.
After researching methods to help these patients, Sharon found out about the cutting-edge permanent catheters.
She pushed for funding and worked closely with colleagues in other areas to source these catheters and develop a life-changing service that allows patients to have the fluid drained more regularly from their abdomen at home.
As well as dramatically improving the quality of life of patients, the innovative service has also saved at least £68,000 on hospital admissions. It is currently being rolled out in North Wales.
We went to meet Sharon, who explained how this service changes the lives of women in her care:
“For ovarian cancer patients, the effects of ascitic fluid build-up can be huge.
“The weight of the fluid is enormous, and people feel like their cancer is taking over their lives.
“When you’re repeatedly putting drains into patients in hospital, their skin in their abdomen becomes tougher, and it can become very painful for them.
“I thought, “There must be something better than this’, so I went away and did some research, and that’s where the idea came from.
“I was tenacious because, more than anything, I believed in this service,’ she adds.
“I wanted these ladies to have better quality care in their palliative stages. That’s what it’s all about.”
The Lymphoedema Network Wales Team have pioneered a microsurgical technique that can, in some instances, cure the symptoms of lymphoedema.
Lymphoedema is a long-term (chronic) condition that causes swelling of the body’s tissues. The most commonly known cause is due to cancer and/or its treatment.
The team have spearheaded the use of a procedure where lymphatics (small vessels) the size of a strand of hair are attached to a vein of a similar size in an effort to redirect flow of lymph fluid and stop congestion of fluid in the limb.
Research has indicated that the direct patient impact of the life-changing microsurgical technique is that 97% of patients are no longer at risk of cellulitis infections and up to 70% no longer need to wear compression garments.
We spoke to Cheryl Pike, National Macmillan Innovations Lymphoedema Specialist in the team:
“Lymphoedema is not just a physical symptom; it can have huge psychological implications as well, especially if someone has had cancer treatment then lymphoedema for some people is a constant daily reminder of their cancer.
“It can cause reduced movement and having to wear a compression sleeve can be inconvenient, as the sleeve can get in the way.
“The impact that lymphoedema can have on people’s relationships, body image, and their ability to work is huge but we’re able to improve those things.
“Our interventions are making significant differences to people’s lives. Our patients tell us that they feel “normal” again – that they feel like the person they were pre-lymphoedema.
“We’re now able to give people hope which is just fantastic.”
The winners will be announced at the Excellence Awards ceremony at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow Hotel on Thursday 16 November.
We’re wishing the best of luck to Sharon and the lymphoedema team!