In April, we launched our Messages to Loved Ones service, to help friends and family stay in touch with patients in our hospitals.

We spoke to Hilde Zarter, whose husband Rolf is a patient at St George’s, about why she started to use the service and why it’s proved so useful for her and Rolf’s family and friends.

When was your husband admitted to St George’s?

Rolf had a stroke and was admitted to hospital on the 21 March, just a few days before lockdown started, so we weren’t able to visit.

He was unconscious for three weeks and communication was very difficult, particularly as he moved wards a number of times.

How did you find out about the service?

One of the doctors mentioned it to us. We were so happy to find a way to let him know we were there for him as he must have felt lonely.

The messages really helped and it felt like something we could do for him.

How many messages have you sent so far?

I have a file of messages that he’s received; there must be at least 140. I told family members about it and they really jumped at the chance, even family from Germany have used it.

Lots of his colleagues have sent messages as well – it has proved to be so accessible for his family and friends.

In a way an email message is nicer than a phone call, as you can read it in peace without any background noise or distractions.

What was your husband’s response to the messages?

The first time he received them, he got 40 in one go! I’ve spoken to him on the phone when he’s been opening them, and it makes him feel like he’s not alone.

He’s had some positive, reassuring messages from his boss too. Despite all the uncertainty, these were a boost to his self-esteem.

I think they have motivated him to get back on his feet and engage with the doctors – he knows there are lots of people who care about him and waiting to see him when he’s out of hospital.

Why would you recommend using the service?

If you want to be able to communicate with your loved one in hospital, this is the best way to do it.

You can write a letter and it will be printed and given to the recipient, who can read it again and again. It’s also something they can take home and remember the love they’ve been shown.

Thank you to Hilde and Rolf for sharing their story with us.

Find out more about the Messages to Loved One service here on our website.