Well now, that was interesting… #NHS

Getting carted off to hospital in an ambulance at 4am, doubled-over with acute abdominal cramps that just won’t go away; not the best start to the week.

I’ve had a stressful year, upturned – the untimely death of a parent does that. So when stomach problems started to surface a few months ago, that’s what I put it down to – stress. I’ve had several instances of crampy discomfort, one or two much worse episodes more recently. And then there was Sunday. Sunday was off-the-scale. I’ll spare you the details, but the upshot, after several increasingly painful and vile hours, was this: A call to NHS111 when I could stand the pain no more and was thinking I might be having an actual heart attack; the despatch of an ambulance; a day in a chaotic and overwhelmed A&E; nil-by-mouth; the extraction of blood – lots of it; X-rays and ultrasound; people prodding and poking (I hope they were doctors); a further day on a ward operating beyond its remit; industrial quantities of antibiotic and painkillers on drip; thence to be packed off home with instructions to avoid overly fatty meals and attend a clinic next Monday to see what comes next.

Unbeknown to me, over recent weeks, I’d developed an inflamed gallbladder and a ‘deranged’ liver, courtesy of some errant gallstones, one of which kicked off the latest, greatest episode of vileness and agony. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t pretty at all.

That’s more detail than anyone would want, so I’ll leave the rest of this miserable experience to your imagination. Save to say a word or two about the extraordinary situation in my local hospital (that’s Hillingdon Hospital in West London, but it could just as well have been any hospital, anywhere in the country), and the equally extraordinary professionals who are doing their very, very best in utterly over-stretched conditions.

I have a lot of time for the NHS – it has served my family well over the years and is a good and positive thing,  whatever Donald Trump might think. The UK is a much, much better place for the NHS. But this venerable institution is in trouble, thanks to a decade of austerity (from the financial crisis, which was kicked off by the USA’s sub-prime loans catastrophe).  A decade of under-funding has left the armies of dedicated and committed professionals across the NHS fire-fighting, horse-trading, and doing everything in their power to deliver care in totally and utterly strained circumstances, day after day, night after night.  And do you know what? All except for one sullen nurse, every single person I met in the last few days at Hillingdon Hospital, was doing it with a smile and good cheer. And I imagine it’s much the same in every hospital and clinic across the country – because that’s the kind of people they are.

They raced around, chasing down scarce equipment. They juggled cubicles, tended to people on beds in corridors and chairs all over the place. When they needed more beds they ‘flexed’ a day ward into service, forcing them to cancel who knows how many minor operations in the process. If the odd minor thing fell through the cracks, they stayed on top of what mattered.  And they kept going, through twelve hour shifts and acres of… carnage.

It’s a crime that the NHS has been expected to operate under such conditions.  And now that we’re getting the small hints that ‘austerity’ might be coming to an end, the very, very first priority of the Government must be to pump money into its veins and jump-start its exhausted heart before it expires altogether. The country deserves it, but more than that, those hundreds of thousands of extraordinary professionals – nurses, doctors, consultants, radiologists, anaesthetists, orderlies, porters, paramedics and everyone else, yes, even the administrators and managers – deserve it.

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Author: Jools

Abundant, Bold, Confident, Determined, Empathetic, Forthright, Grumpy, Healthier, Individual, Just me, Kind, Loving, Mellifluous, Natural, Optimistic, imPatient, Quirky, Real-world, Single-minded, unTreatable, Unwound, Verbal, Wilful, eXtraordinary, Young and old, Zero-tolerance.

28 thoughts on “Well now, that was interesting… #NHS”

  1. Oh dear, Julie. My father had a similar experience with a gall stone that went into his pancreas and caused a blockage. I ended up driving him to the hospital in the middle of the night. I was five months pregnant at the time and my husband had taken a sleeping pill due to insomnia he was suffering from at the time. My dad had peritonitis and was in hospital on antibiotic drips for a week before they could operate.

    1. That sounds dreadful! One thing I’ve learned in the last few days is that gallstones is a very common problem – everyone has an experience like mine, or knows someone who has. I sincerely hope your father made a full recovery.

  2. So sorry to hear about your ailment. I hope you heal smoothly and quickly. How nice of you to recognize the hospital staff. Too bad they have to work in suboptimal conditions. I long for the day everyone has access to safe and free–or at least at minimal cost–health care in all parts of the world.

  3. Another beautifully written piece of your life filled with warmth, wit and fact. I really do hope that the NHS does start getting the help that it very much does need, in much the same way that you did in your hour of need. We can but hope! Cannot believe you have managed to write this during all that chaos, confusion and pain, you are quite the extraordinary lady Julie. Hope the remainder of your care and road back to recovery goes a lot more smoothly. x

  4. You’re absolutely right about the NHS. Totally brilliant people in a totally brilliant institution. And it needs more funds, not being hived off to self-serving, money-grubbing private companies.

    And I hope you’re over your pains, now!

  5. Glad you are feeling better and very much hope the problem doesn’t return. But to blame Donald Trump for the failing health care system is a bit much. He has actually kept the promises he made while a candidate, which is very unusual on both sides of the pond

    1. The connection I was making was that the currently compromised state of our NHS arises from the decade-long severe austerity programme that arose from the financial crisis and sub-prime, which was before DT’s time in office of course. I mentioned it only as politicians here have only in the last few days hinted that they might be prepared to begin to loosen their grip on spending. DT bad-mouthed our NHS a few months back, probably by Twitter, though I can’t remember, and I’m afraid we’re all a bit possessive about it over here. We’re allowed to criticise, as it’s ours – but we didn’t like him weighing in. It may be imperfect, but by and large, we love it! My experience, as they cared for my mum last year, and treated me via A&E last week is that it is no way ‘failing’, but it does seriously need an injection of cash, now more than ever. No wish to offend, Dannie. Forgive me?

      1. Jools. I was not offended at all. I do understand outside interference and opinions and feel the same way. I think Trump is too outspoken but the world gets a bad opinion of him from our media. Enough politics. I do enjoy your post and hope you are feeling better

  6. Julie, I am glad you are healing. Yes, gratitude and love for our NHS. They are doing a remarkable job under much pressure and abysmal conditions. Serious funding needed and also, a shake-up on organisation. I don’t know if some time back now you saw the series Gerry Robinson did on the NHS….it was brilliant and by asking the NHS staff what was ‘up, some wise and helpful suggestions were put forward. Healing hugs for you. xXx

    1. Thanks Jane. No, I didn’t see Gerry Robinson’s series. But from my considerable interaction with the NHS in the last year, I’d probably be able to come up with a few thoughts on that myself! I just feel that we’ve been relying on the commitment and goodwill of the staff for too long. It’s simply not right.

  7. I’m so sorry you’ve had to experience that lovely, and I agree with everything you said about the NHS. I was hospitalised for a week with a massive kidney infection and they were absolutely incredible. We are so lucky to have it!

    1. Thanks Suzie. The NHS is full of amazing people – I’m certain it wouldn’t be surviving without them, and their willingness to constantly go ‘above and beyond’

  8. I do hope you’re recovering, Jools! I’m actually considering moving back there, thanks to my situation. I know it’s not all sunshine and roses in the NHS world but it’s an awful lot better than the US.

    1. That makes sense to me. You’ll get all the support you need here, plus the opportunity to participate in trials where they’re available (if that’s something you want). The NHS isn’t perfect, but it’s a much-needed and much-valued cushion against all the unexpected health issues that life throws at us. But you’ll have to bring your big coats, Wendy… you’ll miss the heat! x

  9. You know that I can really sympathise with this topic. I literally have felt your pain, or very similar. Ditto with all your comments, totally agree. Hope you are feeling much better now.
    Love, light and peace. Brian

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