March 2, 2020

Jillian Wilkes: Patient Journey

Just six months after receiving a double lung transplant, Jillian Wilkes, 70, is keen to show off her cycling skills to Maureen Goodwin, Respiratory Clinical Nurse Consultant at Northern Hospital. This doesn’t concern Maureen, after all the two have been on this journey together for some time now!

Jill’s first visit to the Northern Hospital Emergency Department (ED) was on New Year’s Eve in 2018. Jill says “As you can imagine, ED on New Year’s was very interesting. All the staff that night were fantastic – of course it was a bit noisy!”

Jill was admitted and spent five days at Northern Hospital, where she says, “Everybody was very attentive and looked out and looked after me.”

A few weeks later, however, she says she felt unwell again and came back to Northern Hospital, and was this time admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“The fellows in ICU kept an eye on me and put me at ease! I was referred to the Respiratory team, where Dr Bassem Dawood and Dr Naomi Atkins took over, and it went from there,” says Jill.

“I still remember the first time I met Jill,” says Maureen. “It was in April 2018 when I was asked to help organise home oxygen for Jill.”

Jill had recently been diagnosed with scleroderma, a condition which can affect the lungs and the severity of her condition was quickly recognised.

Scleroderma literally means hard skin. It is an auto-immune condition, which means the immune system attacks healthy tissue and causes them to produce too much collagen, making their skin hard and tight. Currently, there is no cure for scleroderma, but there are many treatments available to help particular symptoms. Prompt and proper diagnosis and treatment can minimise the symptoms of scleroderma and lessen the damage.

In Jill’s case, it had affected her lungs and was spreading rapidly, and she was promptly referred to the Alfred Hospital lung transplant team.

As Jill says, ‘Thanks to you people sensing that something was very wrong,” her treatment was timely.

On the first anniversary of her transplant, Jill visited Northern Hospital to say thank you to Maureen, the oxygen clinic service and the rest of Respiratory Department.

“Maureen has kept in contact with me. She helped organise oxygen for me, when I needed it,” says Jill.

Jill is keen to make up for lost time, and says her new lungs are fantastic, and despite the scleroderma affecting her fingers and toes, she is back to playing tennis and enjoying cycling.

“Maureen was just lovely to me. Plus the staff on ward 18 and in the Respiratory Clinic, who could see that I was unwell and looked after me. They didn’t just treat me as a number,” says Jill.

Jill is looking forward to sharing her experience with others and is happy to tell anyone who will listen how grateful she is to the staff at Northern Hospital. Jill will soon be joining the Northern Health Respiratory Steering Committee.

Featured image shows Jillian Wilkes ready to set off on a cycle ride with Maureen Goodwin looking on.