Kim Targett wants to thank the staff at University Hospital Plymouth NHS Trust (UHP) after she was treated last year.
Kim, aged 53 from Plymouth, started her career in the NHS in 1988 and had been working until she had to leave the job in 2018. After losing her source of income, she found herself homeless and an injury meant she was unable to look for new work.
To cope with the stress of everyday life, Kim turned to alcohol and became dependant on it. She found herself unable to leave her bed and would order more alcohol to be delivered to her bedside.
In December 2021, Kim was admitted to the Emergency Department at Derriford hospital after spending several days incapacitated on her floor. A friend, who works for Livewell South West, had noticed that Kim had been less active on social media and called the police to do a welfare check.
After being admitted into hospital it was found that Kim had been suffering with a prolonged liver dysfunction resulting from excessive alcohol consumption that had led to the development of a serious and potentially fatal brain disorder known as hepatic encephalopathy.
Over the next few months Kim required a range of treatment such as dialysis, rehabilitation, and physiotherapy as she was now unable to stand or walk. Talking about the experience she said: “It was a really tough time, and I was in a really bad place.
“I remember waking up in a side room with a lot of tubes attached to me. I had mittens on my hands to protect the tubes, but I wasn’t sure what had happened until a doctor informed me. It turned out that bacteria from my stomach had been transferred to my brain, causing encephalopathy.”
As well as a diagnosis of encephalopathy, Kim was also suffering from chronic kidney disease and liver fibrosis. “The team on Hembury looked after me day in and day out. It was nice to have company, as at home, the only company I had was alcohol.
“I was later transferred back to a bay on Hembury ward and throughout my time there all the staff were amazing. I particularly remember that the healthcare assistants were fantastic and really looked after me. They brought in the Physiotherapy team where I met Jess Henry and Zoe Hardie – they really encouraged me to get back on my feet and did everything without judgement.”
After meeting the Physiotherapy team, Kim decided to set herself a challenge – the daughter of her friend Julie, who works at UHP, was getting married and it became Kim’s’ goal to get to the wedding. “Julie and her daughter helped me a lot when I was at low points of my life. I really wanted to push myself and get better so I could attend the wedding in August.”
With a new goal in mind and the support of the Physiotherapy team, Kim was able to make progress with her recovery. “Instead of eating in bed, I pushed myself to sit up when I had my food. I stood up and then had to do it again and again, correcting my posture and progressing through the physiotherapy process.”
“I was helped so much by Zoe and Jess. If it hadn’t been for them, I think it would have taken much longer for me to recover. They took me outside on sunny days, took me down to the physiotherapy gym and eventually I was able to walk a few steps with the parallel bars.”
At the end of June Kim was able to walk with the assistance of a frame and was discharged to Mount Gould to continue her rehabilitation and recovery. “While I was at Mount Gould, I was able to progress to using crutches on the advice of Jess and Zoe. Then I was away – marching up and down the wards.”
Kim was later discharged with onwards care at the end of July, just in time to attend her friend’s wedding in August. “I got to the wedding and I’m doing well now. I go on a long walk about once a week, I’ve joined a gym and I’m still working hard to progress with my physiotherapy. I am also proud to be over year sober and recently celebrated 400 days.
“My goals now are to be able to return to driving and get back on my Harley Davidson. I’m now in the headspace of ‘you nearly died; you have to sort your life out’ so I’m trying to do as much as I can.
“At the start of my recovery I was in touch with Jess and Zoe every now and then as I liked to share my recovery progress with them. I’m so grateful for what they, and all the other staff who treated me, have done for me. I owe my life to the amazing staff at UHP.”