A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what to look for in the ideal BigD unit. One critical task I didn’t mention, because it deserves a post of its own, is to check out the keystone, the person who runs the unit.
I’ve been spoilt. I’ve met the best, and measure everyone else by her. Unfortunately, like all good people, she died young.
My first experience of the BigD was at the Austin Hospital’s Central Dialysis Unit, or CDU. It was in an old part of the hospital below the famous Ward 4. As a newbie with a brand new fistula, I had a gentle introduction to the ins and outs of dialysis over about four runs. I then went to a private (Gambro) dialysis unit about 30 minutes from home.
The unit was new, it had four chairs and I was the 6th person to join the club. It was managed by the attractive and super-capable Anna Catterall. Anna had taken the plunge to manage the unit as a second career, expanding her horizons beyond senior level nursing. She had lots of BigD experience and a growing appreciation of the commercial realities of running a private unit. She was a fast learner.
Even as a newbie, it was clear to me that Anna was no timeserver. Over the next few years, Anna set the standard (and the pace) for the gold class dialysis unit. The BigD is a long-term proposition. Ten to twenty years is not unusual. In this environment it would be easy to fall into a rut, giving the same care, day-after-day. She made every day a new experience. You never knew what was coming, from a better blood filter she had read about (involving re-training all staff) to new regimes, experiments with food, football tipping and birthday presents.
Anna really cared. Dialysis has a big psychological impact, which can be ongoing. Anna talked and listened. The BigD will never be a pleasant experience, but Anna worked hard to make it stress-free and comfortable (something I thought impossible).
She was proactive. She monitored test results like they were her own. She took time to review, interpret and explain their significance. She initiated action for improved care (with the renal specialist).
She genuinely made life better.
To everyone’s deep sorrow, Anna passed away after battling cancer on 24 October 2001, aged only 45. We miss her very much. When a new, expanded unit was created at the same location, it was named the Anna Catterall wing in her memory.
Anna set the bar pretty high. Luckily her best friend, Chris took over. She is from the same mould and has the same drive, ideas and standards. Though the unit (now Diaverum) has grown and evolved, it is still something Anna would be proud of.
So, when choosing a BigD unit, of course look for all the other things, safety, flexibility, creature comforts, food and proximity, but most important, check out the person in charge (after all, without him/her, none of the other stuff happens).