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Saturday, June 22, 2024
HomeHealthDoctor learns life lessons from elderly patients at Northwick Park Hospital

Doctor learns life lessons from elderly patients at Northwick Park Hospital

Northwick Park Hospital’s Evelyn Ward is a treasure trove of history, where elderly patients share their experiences with Dr. Sushen Bhattacharyya, a veteran doctor who finds inspiration in their stories. With over 35 years in medicine, Dr. Bhattacharyya cherishes these conversations, which range from the harrowing events of the Blitz to the Great North Sea Flood of 1953.

“These people have literally lived a life and have so many anecdotes, stories, and insights. I love talking with them. It is what keeps me interested in medicine after more than 35 years,” says Dr. Bhattacharyya.

One patient left a profound impact on him with a story from World War Two. The patient witnessed his father and brother being murdered by Nazis but refused to give in to hate, saying, “To hate would have let them win.”

Dr. Bhattacharyya also recalls a fascinating discussion with an elderly man about how fighter planes managed to fire their guns through the propellors without hitting them. “It turned out he had been a fighter pilot during World War II and proceeded to give me a one-on-one about aerodynamics.”

Most of the patients on Evelyn Ward arrive with fractured femurs, a common injury among those over 65. Dr. Bhattacharyya plays detective to uncover the underlying causes of these falls, such as blood pressure issues, abnormal heart rhythms, weakened muscles, or side effects from medications.

“Patients often tell me they can’t remember why they fell and assume they tripped on something. If we are clear on why someone has fallen, we can try and put measures in place to reduce the chance of it happening again,” he explains. “We see nearly 400 patients a year with this type of fracture, so it is worth identifying the commonalities and not just blaming the carpet.”

Nearly 20 years ago, Dr. Bhattacharyya established a holistic service at Northwick Park Hospital to address fracture injuries comprehensively. His efforts have contributed to a significant reduction in the national death rate from femur fractures among the elderly, from 35% to 5%.

Yet, the elderly sometimes defy expectations. Dr. Bhattacharyya fondly remembers a 92-year-old patient with a broken hip. “I asked what had happened and he told me he had been ice-skating.”

“Ice skating?” I said. “What on earth made you want to do that?”

“I was teaching my new girlfriend to skate.”

As Dr. Bhattacharyya puts it, “Well, boys will be boys.”

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