My Week: Sharon Bowcutt offers advice on tattoos and newborns

The children's cardiac liaison nurse for the British Heart Foundation recounts her week

Sharon Bowcutt
Sharon Bowcutt

Monday: I work three days a week at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre in Glenfield Hospital, Leicester. My week starts at 7.30am, when I catch up with my messages and emails. At 8.30am I join the grand round, when our multidisciplinary team of surgeons, cardiologists, intensive care specialists and nurses visit the ward and intensive care. My role is to make sure that families are kept up to date and understand what's going on. It's an open-door policy, so families can always phone or call in for a chat and offload their concerns.

Wednesday: There are only four of us on the team, but together we cover the whole of the east midlands. Today I'm off to Nottingham to attend a cardiology clinic with one of the consultants. I usually see between 15 and 20 families. I see a teenager with a heart condition who wants to know whether he can get a tattoo - I have to gently let him down. Piercings and tattoos can put young people at risk of endocarditis, a nasty bacterial infection that can affect the heart. I also see a little girl who is scared of having blood tests, so I refer her to the play specialists on the ward to get some therapy - I hope that will help her with her fears. There are so many psychological aspects to caring for people with heart conditions - it can get really emotional.

Thursday: I receive a call today from a lady who is pregnant again after her previous baby passed away because of congenital heart disease. It's a bittersweet moment - there's so much hope, but there's fear as well. Then I'm off to the ante-natal clinic to help families turn what they've been told by medical staff into something they understand. When children are first diagnosed, their parents are often in such a state of shock that I know they won't take in any more information. I give them my number and some literature and tell them I'll be in contact in the next few days to go through everything. The moment when it really clicks for parents, and I can see they've understood what the situation is and how they'll be able to cope, is very rewarding.

British Heart Foundation is a national charity that aims to prevent people dying from heart disease. Saturday 29 September is World Heart Day.

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