Toggle site contrast Toggle contrast

Lynsi’s story

Lynsi in bed in CCUMy name is Lynsi and I am a head and neck cancer survivor thanks to the incredible Oral & Maxillofacial department located at both Bedford and Luton & Dunstable University Hospital (L&D).

In June 2023, I went to my GP regarding a painful sore in my mouth. During my appointment I was referred to Bedford’s Oral & Maxillofacial department for further investigation. Within 12 days I was fortunate to be met by a fantastic consultant and his team who arranged a same-day biopsy and urgent staging scans.

On the 3rd July, I met with my consultant and my clinical specialist nurse and was formally diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma. The treatment plan was discussed with me and I was made aware that I would require a short stay in ITU (critical care). Naively I assumed all patients went there after surgery, so had little realisation of the toll this surgery would have on my body.

Fast forward 15 days, I found myself at the L&D being prepped for major surgery which would result in a partial glossectomy, right neck dissection and left radial forearm free flap.

After my surgery I appeared to make fantastic progress and was no longer in need of close monitoring or additional support. However, after a few days, issues started to arise and I required a second surgery in an attempt to salvage the radial forearm free flap. Despite everyone’s best effort, this was not meant to be and a few days later I was taken for a third surgery, this time using my right arm. We had hoped it would be third time lucky, but my body had other ideas and sadly I had a blood clot and my new flap was not able to be used. Instead buccal fat was removed from my cheek and used to form my new reconstruction.

I owe my life to my incredibly talented consultant and his team. There is no way I can ever repay my gratitude to the Oral & Maxillofacial department, but what I am able to do is help the heroes who work on ITU2 by raising funds in support of their Critical Care Garden.

Before my 12 day stay in ITU2, I had little knowledge of the role these incredible doctors, nurses, admin staff, cleaners, radiologists and many more play in keeping their patients safe and in receipt of the best care. During my stay, I was cared for around the clock receiving constant observations and monitoring, medication, X-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests, a blood transfusion and tailored NG feeding to name a few. The nurses work tirelessly to ensure all needs are met and recovery is progressing as it should. In particular, the nurses were responsible for checking my newly reconstructed tongue every 30 minutes to ensure blood flow was present. This was my least favourite check, I would be woken for this and was always very self conscious that people were rummaging in my mouth and I had not been allowed to brush my teeth for days! As much as this was not something I looked forward to, it was vital and resulted in the nurses being able to notify the MaxFax team of my failing flap.

A lot of my time there was spent either ventilated or spaced out on drugs, but memories I have are those of incredible nurses who held my hand during what was the worst experience of my life. One sister in particular took the time to share her own experiences of cancer, spoke about her dog (a comfort to me because I missed mine like crazy) and held me as I cried after hearing the third surgery didn’t go to plan. I have many memories of nurses who went above and beyond to make my time in ITU easier and more comfortable. I often question how they are able to remain so upbeat and strong considering what they face daily on their shifts. I was lucky, I passed through, but I am aware that some do not and the last faces they see and hands they hold are of them incredible nurses. Daily, they face loss and heart-breaking situations but they still show up to work with a smile on their face and ready to give their patient the best day possible.

As a patient I would have benefited from outdoor space where I could enjoy fresh air or a change of scenery. Mentally, 12 days in ITU took its toll on me and I was desperate to move outside of the 4 walls I found myself in. I believe my time in ITU would of been greatly improved having the opportunity to absorb natural sunlight and being away from the constant beeping of monitors.

The benefits are mirrored to the ITU staff also. They are in need of a safe space to reflect, a different environment to care for their patients, and a breath of fresh air during a busy shift. They deserve the recognition for their hard work and kindness they show on each and every shift.

Thank you for reading my story and I hope you are able to help me show my thanks to the incredible staff at the L&D.