A break from the past | Latest news

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Dr Sushen Bhattacharyya says one of his favourite parts of the his job is chatting with elderly patients about their lives

A break from the past

Sushen Bhattacharyya enjoys a good conversation and is spoilt for for choice on Evelyn Ward where his elderly patients talk about events few of us have experienced from the Blitz to the Great North Sea Flood of 1953 which threatened to engulf parts of London.

“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.”

Sushan recalls a patient whose father and brother were murdered in front of him by Nazis during World War Two and refused to give into hate saying ‘to hate would have let them win.’

Then there was his conversation with an elderly man about how old 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 Two and proceeded to give me a one-on-one about aerodynamics.”

The majority of Sushen’s patients arrive on the ward with fractured femurs - one of the commonest fall injuries in the over 65s.

“I often think I am a detective as much as a doctor,” adds Sushen who looks for contributing factors behind a fall, such as problems with blood pressure, an abnormal heart rhythm, weakened muscles or the side effects of too many medicines.

"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.

“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.”

Sushen set up the service nearly 20 years ago introducing a holistic approach which looked at treating issues surrounding fracture injuries.

The national death rate resulting from femur fractures among the elderly has since fallen from 35% to 5%.

That’s not to say that the elderly don’t still throw caution - and their walking sticks - to the wind on occasion.

One of Sushan’s favourite patients was a 92-year-old who came in 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.”

Well, boys will be boys.

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