A moment to appreciate

Gary Burgon says ‘thanks’ to the strangers who saved his life

Photo of Gary Burgon at home on a couch

Three years ago, Gary Burgon came close to dying.

Now, he finally gets to express heartfelt thanks to the many NHS staff, many of them still strangers, who saved him and nursed him back to health.

On 4 May 2014, while attending church with his family, Gary Burgon, then 58, collapsed. He has a vague recollection of falling to the ground and asking for people to care for his daughter.

Beyond that, he has no recollection of what happened to him from that time until he woke up in Broad Green Hospital, Liverpool. It was June.

“Even then” Gary says, “it was another week before I had my senses about me.”

He soon discovered that he had been very seriously ill. His aorta had dissected and a heart valve had torn. He was nursed to the point where he was deemed fit enough to return home “under the continuing and dedicated care” of his GP, Dr Richard Cooper, and his team at Roseneath Medical Practice inBuckley.

“It soon became very clear to me that I owed my life to a lot of people in two hospitals” Gary says.

“Doctors and nurses in the Countess of Chester Hospital had administered life-saving emergency treatment. Radiographers had helped with the diagnosis of my illness. Porters had moved me around, while caring nursing staff reassured my family.

“Ambulance men and women then took me to Broad Green Hospital, accompanied by doctors and nurses who cared for me during the journey. I have often wondered how they got home again.”

In Broad Green Hospital, Mr Field and his surgical team operated on Gary all night long, despite having already worked a full day. Next morning, when the surgery was complete, Mr Field took the time to contact Gary’s wife to offer her reassurance.

The extra mile

“For several weeks afterwards, I was in a medically induced coma in intensive care. There, despite my unconscious and unresponsive state, the nurses and doctors tended my every medical need.

“They also went the extra mile by washing me, shaving me, combing my hair and even treating a skin condition on my hand that was totally unrelated to my illness.

“When I was coherent again, doctors and nurses, radiographers and physiotherapists, auxiliaries and cleaners, volunteers and support workers all cared for me in every way, with great dedication and tenderness. I felt very much that I was indeed loved by these wonderful people.

“My life had been saved. My wife still has a husband, my children a father, and my grandchildren a grandfather – all because of those dedicated people in the NHS who saved my life. Most were strangers to me and I still do not even know their names.

“I wanted to go on record as one who will be forever grateful.”

A chance at last

Gary wrote letters to the various hospital departments involved in his care, to try to get messages of gratitude through to the individual hospital staff directly involved in saving his life and caring for him with such dedication.

“I have often wondered if they ever received them, but I’ve never know for sure,” Gary says. “I also wrote to the newspapers in the hope that they would publish my story as a way of saying thanks to them, and also to refute the anti-NHS stories that surface from time to time.”

Unfortunately, the newspapers didn’t oblige. So, when Gary became aware of the UNISON Public Service Champions campaign, he finally saw the chance he’d been looking for.


Close-up photo of Gareth Burgon smiling

“I believe that the work of those who serve us is all too often under-appreciated,” says Gary. “I am very grateful that UNISON has provided me with an opportunity to say thank you publicly to the people who cared for me and my family in my hour of need.

“I would encourage everybody to take a minute and think about all of the public servants who have served them.

“Maybe it was a policeman who went the extra mile to keep us safe, a school teacher who made a subject come to life, a nurse who cared, a doctor who healed, a workman who cleaned up somebody else’s mess. The list goes on.

“Just think what it would mean to them simply to hear the words, sincerely expressed: ‘Thank you, I appreciate what you have done for me today.’ It’s just a thought, but maybe you could write to UNISON and say ‘thank you’ to somebody too.

“I hope the people who cared for me see this article, and know of the heartfelt gratitude that I feel towards each and every one of them.”