PUMPHEAD is a case study exploring the gulf that can exist between advances in medical science on one hand, and the patient experience on the other.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
PUMPHEAD is structured around the experiences of people young and old who have one of the most invasive forms of life-saving medical intervention: open-heart surgery. Patients are generally better-off physically but many (though not all) experience short and long-term psychological problems related to PTSD. We are not looking at causes or treatments but are concerned to promote awareness and understanding, and to advocate for appropriate support services.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
Our aim is to promote awareness and empathetic understanding of post-cardiac surgery experiences, and to advocate for appropriate support services. Support and understanding are not yet widely manifest in the front-line delivery of cardiac medical services, but our film, we hope, will help to stimulate change.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
The psychological aspect of open-heart surgery is not often publicly discussed outside of academic research domains. Partly this may be the broad social stigma that is attached to any discussion of mental illness. However it is more: in the filmmaker's own experience, and in the experience of others whose stories are told in the film, the “Pumphead” syndrome is hard to define and hard for patients to communicate. So the first goal of this film is to put the subject on the table, to help make it easier for patients to talk about it, and for their family members to see it in perspective. Awareness and understanding are the primary goals of the film.
Secondly, we are keen to tackle the gulf that exists between current research findings and the front-line delivery of health services. We intend that our film will promote communication across this academic-practitioner divide, nationally and internationally.
How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?
The film will be distributed by the filmmaker’s own company, Ronin Films – a specialist for 45 years in documentary distribution in the education market internationally. We can be confident that the film will reach universities, public libraries and community associations in Australia and New Zealand, and in universities in North America.
As a distributor, we are also experienced in taking films out into the field and promoting community and “event” screenings with associated speakers and panel discussions. We will be aiming to facilitate dialogue at every opportunity, and accordingly we will be working with a professional Impact Producer on the marketing and outreach campaign.
We have also developed a strong working relationship with the Australian Centre for Heart Health, a research and advocacy organisation based in Melbourne, and will partner with them in every aspect of the campaign, both nationally and internationally.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
Throughout this project, we have developed a strong working relationship with the Australian Centre for Heart Health, a research and advocacy organisation based in Melbourne, and will be able to draw on their support for our outreach campaign. The film is, however, a fully independent production. All patients in the film came forward voluntarily to talk about their experiences, and their stories constitute an original and otherwise inaccessible first-hand narrative that will contribute significantly to practitioner training at all levels, and to public awareness.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
First and foremost, we want to reassure patients wherever they may be, that they are not alone. We also want to stimulate awareness and understanding among families and carers, and to challenge health policy makers and commentators to give due attention to an otherwise unseen constellation of debilitating mental health outcomes following invasive surgery. It is a wonderful thing that lives can be saved and life-spans dramatically extended through open-heart surgery, but attention needs to be paid to the quality of this extended life. We want to see patients thrive after their lives have been saved by this form of surgery, not just to be alive. We will also be discussing the wide range of experiences relating to "post-traumatic growth" which can give hope to patients.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
Our work will be never-ending, but we intend to contribute meaningfully to a new phase of greater understanding, and the creation of new support services. We would hope to see a reduction in the distress levels of patients following open-heart surgery and greater understanding of the conditions that may encourage the transition of patients from distress to the many and varied forms of "post-traumatic growth" which can occur.