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Bereaved mother founds wellbeing initiatives at The Little Retreat and The Big Retreat festival

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The tragic loss of a young man to suicide is driving a range of mental health and wellbeing initiatives at The Little Retreat glamping site in Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire and at The Big Retreat Festival, which takes place on land neighbouring the site from June 3-6.

Gryff Morgan, 18, from Narberth, died last November following a period of mental health difficulties during which his family struggled to get him the help he needed.

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His mother Kim feels that gaps between services, combined with inadequate training for key professionals who dealt with Gryff, contributed to the tragic loss of her son.

Gryff had shown signs of autism from an early age but was only referred for diagnoses towards the end of his life, by which time the fact that he was legally an adult made it difficult for Kim to help him get the right help and support.

Now Kim is working with her cousin Amber Lort-Phillips, founder of The Little Retreat and The Big Retreat, to create a Mind Space therapy offering at the glamping site and the new Gryff’s Mind Space area at The Big Retreat, which will include over 18 different wellbeing-focussed talks and activities.

These will range from The Anti-Burnout Club, which will help people recognise and deal with burnout, to a sleep therapy workshop for people with disturbed sleep.

Wellbeing activities at the festival

Organisations including mental health charity MIND, bereavement support charity 2wish, substance awareness charity Barod, Get the Boys a Lift – a community interest company that works to encourage men to get talking about their mental health – and peer to peer support group Living in Suicide’s Shadow (LiSS) will all be holding activities in Gryff’s Mind Space.

Meanwhile, Kim is working hard to raise money for mental health charities; so far she has raised over £35,000, with the funds donated to charities including Pembrokeshire MIND and Get The Boys A Lift.

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A portion of the profits from therapies in the Mind Space at The Little Retreat will also go into the fundraising pot. Therapies in The Mind Space treatment room ranging from aromatherapy to reflexology aim to help people relax and take care of their mental wellbeing.

“I’d like to say a big thank you to all the people involved for their efforts in helping and supporting us,” says Kim. “All my efforts are now focussed on raising funds and creating initiatives in Gryff’s memory that I hope will lead to lasting change.”

Kim’s next plan is to found a charity, also called, Gryff’s Mind Space, which will work to create awareness of vulnerability, neurodiversity, suicide, physical and mental health, signposting people support and working to improve the help and support available for 18 – 25 year olds. Kim will also organise quarterly pop-up events with workshops and classes focused around mental health and wellbeing.

“There’s a big gap in our services (the health board, police, CPS, prisons, schools and government) when it comes to the transition from teenage to adult, especially if there is undiagnosed neurodivergence (an invisible disability),” says Kim.

“The suicide risk is significantly higher in someone with ASD and poor mental health. Because it’s known as an ‘invisible disability’ many people in the ‘medium category’ go unnoticed until it is too late.

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“Many are very intelligent and, like Gryff, learn how to mask their symptoms, making it even harder to diagnose. They are hiding because they feel ashamed. It is not shameful to be your true self. It is shameful on people who don’t allow others to be their true selves.

“The pressure of holding it together builds up and melt downs ensue. If help still doesn’t come, the longer it builds up the likelihood of a complete breakdown (often psychotic) happens.

“Mental health is a very hot topic just now. We all know it can affect any one of us. We can all do with as many tips as possible, and our own mental health toolkit. We all need to be listened to and validated – yet the stigma and the taboo around mental health is endemic.

“By talking openly, the stigma will lessen, and the more people talk the easier it gets. Raising awareness through education will help speed up the process of change we so desperately need to protect our vulnerable young adults, who are still just our children.”

Kim’s aim is to achieve as much as she can in Gryff’s memory and to help bring about changes that could save other people in similar circumstances.

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“I’d like there to be no stigma at all about anything to do with mental health and I want to see policy change within all the services making it easier and quicker to get diagnosed,” she says.

“For young people aged between 18 and 25 it should be possible for parents to liaise with key services and advocate for their children. I also want to see the various services that get involved when someone has a mental health crisis to have better training and interconnection so that nobody falls through the gaps.

“And society as a whole needs more knowledge and understanding; we need to teach people about how the brain works from a young age.”

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Swansea Bay NHS

Plans for Vascular Hybrid Theatre at Morriston Hospital get a major boost

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Plans for a state-of-the-art new operating theatre at Morriston Hospital which combines a traditional operating room with advanced medical imagery, have taken a huge step forward.

Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan has endorsed the high level multi million pound proposal. This means Swansea Bay University Health Board can now develop the next-stage detailed business case for the Vascular Hybrid Theatre for South West Wales.

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Vascular surgery treats patients with diseased arteries and veins. Blocked arteries can result in limb loss (amputation) and swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) which can burst, resulting in sudden death.

The Vascular Hybrid Theatre, the first in South West Wales, will combine operating theatre functionality and state of the art X-ray imaging equipment. It will treat around 500 patients a year, and some patients who currently need to go to England for treatment will be able to have their care in Swansea instead. The theatre could open early in 2025.

The new theatre will be used by Morrison Hospital’s vascular surgeons and radiologists to carry out minimally invasive techniques, often known as ‘keyhole surgery.

Compared with traditional surgery, hybrid operating theatre surgery is less invasive and less traumatic for patients. The hybrid approach will give patients quicker access to surgery and in some cases could mean the difference between limbs, and lives, being saved.

Currently, a significant number of South West Wales’ patients undergo staged procedures during their care, which can lead to multiple or prolonged stays in hospital.

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Swansea bay University Health Board say that access to these new advanced surgical technologies will allow Morriston’s vascular surgeons to perform both minimally-invasive image guided procedures, as well as traditional open surgery. This will not only improve the overall patient experience, but reduce the risk of amputation, reduce the length of stay in hospital and cut waiting times. 

The hybrid theatre will treat patients from the Swansea Bay, Hywel Dda and Powys health board areas.

Investment in the new theatre will also save a significant amount of money for the health service because the surgical techniques the hybrid model supports not only improve patient outcomes, they are also much more efficient.

The hybrid theatre will also support the clinical staff teaching.

Huma Stone, Swansea Bay UHB’s Associate Service Director, Clinical Support Services for Morriston Hospital, said: “We welcome this long awaited development and are excited that we will be able to treat patients using a combination of traditional surgery and the latest minimally invasive (keyhole) treatments at the same time, saving lives and limbs. This also reduces the number of times a patient is admitted, and shortens the patient stay in hospital.”

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Senior Consultant Vascular Surgeon Louis Fligelstone said: “This brings state of the art facilities to west Wales that will enable optimal treatment of patients with swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) and blocked blood vessels and will save lives and limbs, whilst reducing the time patients spend in hospital.” 

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Charity

Mayor of Llandovery raises over £2k for air ambulance after surviving freak cycling accident

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The Mayor of Llandovery in Carmarthenshire has raised over £2,000 for Wales Air Ambulance after surviving a freak cycling accident that left him unconscious at the side of the road and saw TWO air ambulances sent to his aid.

Mayor Handel Davies and his wife Margaret raised £2,280 during the annual Mayors Charity Ball.

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The successful ball, which included an auction of rugby related paraphernalia and a raffle, also raised funds for Llandovery Hospital League of Friends.

Over 110 guests enjoyed an evening of entertainment, which included ‘an excellent address’ from Wales Air Ambulance chair of trustees David Gilbert. Over £4,500 was raised during the evening for the two good causes.

The Mayor and Mayoress presented the cheque to David Gilbert at a recent base visit at the Wales Air Ambulance’s headquarters in Llanelli.

The mayor has had personal experience of the essential service the Wales Air Ambulance provides after the Charity’s medics were called out to him during the pandemic.

Handel was involved in a freak accident when a dog ran out in front of him whilst out cycling. He was knocked unconscious for 15 minutes and despite two air ambulances being called out to him, luckily for Handel he didn’t need to be airlifted to hospital.

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Mr Davies said: “A sheepdog literally appeared from nowhere at full speed in the blink of an eye hitting the front wheel of my bike at right angles causing me to fall immediately. It happened so quickly I do not remember hitting the road, but the eyewitness commented that had I not been wearing a helmet I would not have survived. The shattered interior of the helmet is evidence of this.

“It took 6-9 months to really recover and get over the impact, which following another serious cycling accident when I was 18, has led me to decide to ‘hang up’ my bicycle and instead attend ‘spin classes’ at the local leisure centre.”

A cheque for £2,280 was presented to Wales Air Ambulance by Mayor of Llandovery, Cllr Handel Davies

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep its emergency helicopters in the air and its rapid response vehicles on the road.

The 24/7 emergency service offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia, and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care. 

Reflecting on why the 24/7 Charity was chosen to benefit from the Mayor’s charity Ball, he added: “I have the utmost respect for the incredible and invaluable work the Wales Air Ambulance undertake and as we live in a beautiful part of north Carmarthenshire next to road which is very popular with both cyclists and motor bikers, over the last 25 years we have seen many accidents along this stretch of the A4069 particularly at weekends.

“It seems that almost every weekend during the summer months a Wales Air Ambulance flies overhead to attend to an incident.”

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Jane Griffiths Wales Air Ambulance’s Community Fundraising Manager said: “It was lovely to meet the Mayor and Mayoress of Llandovery during their recent base visit. They’ve raised a fantastic amount for two important causes and we’re extremely grateful for them choosing the Wales Air Ambulance as one of the charities to benefit from the Mayors Charity Ball.

“It’s lovely to hear that the mayor has recovered from his freak accident, and we wish him well for the future. Your support of our lifesaving Charity is much appreciated and will help us to continue to be there for the people of Wales when they need us most.”

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Swansea Bay NHS

£2.5m investment aims to help tackle hospital waiting lists in Swansea Bay by expanding care after surgery

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photo of woman lying in hospital bed

Swansea Bay University Health Board say a £2.5million investment in a new service that provides enhanced recovery support for patients following some types of complex surgery, will open the way for Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals to do even more to tackle waiting lists.

In the wake of the two-year+ pandemic, pressure on waiting lists is higher than ever. Changes to how Swansea Bay University Health Board delivers services; and investment in staff and equipment, are aimed at bringing those waits down the health board says.

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One of the key investments is focused on expanding enhanced post-operative care facilities, which offer a step up from general ward care for patients who need extra support immediately after their operation.

This includes offering patients advanced pain relief, blood pressure monitoring and oxygen support in the immediate 24-48 hour post-operative period.

These facilities and services are not as intensive as high dependency or intensive care units. However, this additional layer of care will offer Swansea Bay hospitals greater flexibility over where that surgery can be carried out.

Opening these services in Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals mean they will soon be able to offer a wider range of certain surgeries which are currently only carried out in Morriston Hospital.

Pankaj Kumar, Deputy Group Medical Director, Morriston Hospital and the project lead said: “In providing these enhanced post-operative care facilities, the health board is providing right-sized, fit for purpose, post-operative care that is responsive to every patients’ needs and is efficient in its delivery of care.

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“It will lead to improved patient care and better clinical outcomes for patients, and will also reduce the time they spend in hospital.”

The health board says that expanding these services will also ease the pressure on critical care units located on the Morriston site, and reduce the risk of a scheduled operation being cancelled at the last minute because an emergency patient needed the bed.

Singleton Hospital, which already carries out some complex surgery, will benefit from four enhanced post-operative recovery beds to begin with (eventual plan is for six beds) offering the enhanced post-operative recovery facilities particularly for colorectal and gynaecology patients.

Neath Port Talbot’s plan to become the Orthopaedic Centre of Excellence will be supported by enhanced recovery unit beds being introduced in phase two, with the commissioning of three beds. This development will also help urology surgical patients.

Morriston Hospital already has advanced post-operative care beds as part of post-anaesthetic care unit services to complement its higher level of critical care beds.

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