In June 2006, Catherine White from Warwickshire was admitted to Warwick Hospital suffering from Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome. The staff of the ICU saved Catherine's life but as soon as she was stable, she was discharged to a general ward and then quickly home. Despite the wealth of knowledge and evidence of the psychological ramifications of critical illness, Catherine was left to come to terms with her sudden illness and having been close to death.

The hospital where Catherine was treated is one of the 70% of intensive care units without a follow-up service and Catherine initially had no help in coming to terms with what she'd been through or reassurance that it would get better and what she experienced was normal for people in her position.

Catherine White at Eynsham 10 kilometre run start

Catherine and Rich at the starting line

When Catherine found ICUsteps she found other people who could relate to what she'd been through as they had as well. When Catherine heard about a project ICUsteps were undertaking to produce an intensive care information booklet for patients and relatives she wanted to help. She knew from personal experience what a difference knowledge makes and the despair that comes from going through this in isolation, not knowing what is happening or why.

Catherine wanted to help and she has in a most direct manner. To help with funding for the booklet project, Catherine entered the Eynsham 10K road race on the 25th November 2007, 18 months after being critically ill.

Catherine said: "There were many aspects of my illness that were distressing - becoming so critically ill without warning; the treatments I had that were necessary to save my life; the long recovery period afterwards. I had the very best of care while I was in ICU- and I will always be grateful to the wonderful doctors and nurses who looked after me. But the experience of ICU was very traumatic and I found there was a real lack of information afterwards to help me come to terms with what had happened and warn me of problems that I might experience afterwards. I felt that as a minimum, patients should receive a standard information booklet and a few months ago I was lucky enough to link up with ICUsteps and we began working on making the booklet a reality.

I began running about a year after my illness to help build up strength and improve my energy levels. I began very gradually and by September was able to run 3 miles when it occurred to me that I could do a sponsored run to help raise money for a project that I believe is so vital. Friends and family have all been very generous (partly because they know I would never have dreamed of running 6 miles before my illness!) and I am very grateful to MSC Software, the company my husband works for, for pledging £600 towards this project". (MSC Software is a global engineering software developer).

Peter Gibb, co-founder and trustee of ICUsteps said "We are committed to producing a standard booklet for intensive care patients. Some hospitals produce booklets of this nature, but they are of varying quality and often fairly cursory. Many hospitals do not produce information and none are from the patient's perspective. The media use the term 'postcode lottery' about many healthcare issues, but effectively it is just a question of where you're treated as to whether you will get this important information given to you. We believe this is an unacceptable state of affairs and that all patients going through critical illness should have this information given to them. The booklet will cover topics from admission right through to rehabilitation and is being circulated to a number of organisations with an interest in intensive care medicine to ensure it is complete and accurate. To make the booklet more easily accessible to patients and relatives, we will be seeking help from the Plain English Campaign and want the booklet to have the Crystal Mark, something which even those booklets which are currently available don't have."

Despite suffering a cold in the week leading up to the run, Catherine completed the 10 kilometres in a time of 1 hour 4 minutes and 40 seconds and has raised a fantastic £2000 in sponsorship pledges. When the Gift Aid on these donations is reclaimed this should be enough to see the booklet edited, Plain English certified and ready for printing.

If you'd like more information about the project or know of sponsors who would be able to fund the printing and distribution of the booklet, please get in touch through the contact us form.