The Highland Rheumatology Unit


By Michelle Stevenson

It’s 10 am on Monday morning and I’ve just arrived to be admitted into the Highland Rheumatology Unit (HRU) which is situated on the old site of the Peterkin Maternity wing of the Ross Memorial Hospital. I’ve been offered a cup of tea, and been given the guided tour of the unit. There are around 10 members of staff altogether who are headed by Sister Lyn Forbes (a.k.a. ‘The Boss’) and Dr Malcolm Steven, the Consultant Rheumatologist (who thinks he’s the boss!). Dr Steven visits the patients on a Wednesday afternoon, alongside fellow consultants, Dr Keith Slater, and Dr John Harvie (the ‘young, good looking’ doctors) You will usually be an in-patient for 2 weeks, however this can vary depending on disease activity or if you have had an operation, it can be longer.

The Unit can accommodate up to 14 patients, in 6 single, 2 twin rooms and a 4-bed ward, there is a TV lounge/dining room. Treatment room, 2 showers and a fully accessible bathroom complete the layout of this fantastic building. Joined between the Unit and the main hospital is a Physiotherapy Department, Gym and Occupational Therapy room.

All meals are served in the dining room with the other patients. Your day starts at 8 am, with breakfast. Lunchtime is at 12.30 p.m., and a high tea is at 5 p.m. A choice of food for the following day is available by menu. Special diets can also be catered for. A cup of tea and a rest period is between 1.30 and 2.30pm – which believe me IS needed!

On the Monday afternoon of admission day, lookout! There are two Physiotherapists, Fran Bowen (don’t call her Franny!) and Gail Laird (who gives great hugs). They come looking for you, to assess your joints and put you through your paces. From here they will give you a work regime to go by for the whole of your stay. Did you know the only difference between a physio and a terrorist is that you can negotiate with a terrorist!

The one and only Becky assists the Physio’s in their department. She will gladly apply ice to your joints with a huge smile on her face. She is also responsible for a light, sitting down exercise class in the Gym on a monday, tuesday and thursday at 1.15 p.m. She has recently begun adding in tai-chi and games on the wii fit as part of the programme.

At 2.30pm on a Tuesday and Thursday, is an Occupational Therapy class with the “Gadget Queen,” Val Little. This class is usually held in the dining room, and you’ll learn all about joint protection, relaxation and gadgets available to help with your joints and in your home. Some items can be purchased for a donation.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, there are 2 sessions of Hydrotherapy in the Puffin Pool. Patients are split into 2 groups – one group will go to the pool from 9.30 – 10.30 a.m., while the other will go to the (torture chamber) physio department. At 11 a.m., and after a reviving cup of tea, the groups will swap over till 12 p.m. Hydrotherapy is one of the safest treatments for Arthritis and Back pain. The warm water supports your weight, helps your muscles to relax and eases the pain in your joints, so for a small period of time all the pain melts away! One of the Physiotherapists along with Physio Assistant Stephanie Corbet are on hand to keep an eye on you. They offer gentle exercises and give any assistance you may need, and if you look close enough, Steph has webbed feet after spending so much time in the water.

Following all that, from 3.30 p.m., the day is your own. Visitors are welcome from 4 – 9 p.m., although it is preferred that visitors refrain from visiting at 5 p.m. while you are having your supper. Facilities available to the patients are a visiting Chiropodist, Orthotist and Hairdresser. Daily newspapers are delivered in the mornings and paid for weekly.

Overall, the HRU is a wonderful place for a “BODY MOT”, with very dedicated and caring staff who really look after you. I have been in many times as an in-patient and I’m always amazed at the difference in age groups…the patients that is, not the staff! As a regular it is always nice to see old faces and meet new people. Everyone comes together to share their experiences. You can always guarantee to come out as a new person.

You couldn’t pay for the treatment you get here. It’s priceless!

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