The first time I realised how lucky we were to have the NHS was when, unexpectedly, I broke my leg at the age of 28. I was freelancing in PR and living hand-to-mouth. I was taken to hospital by ambulance, operated on, treated and given a follow up treatment for over a year. It was incredible. The NHS was a gift. Last week, I had another occasion to be grateful for our all hallowed NHS when my son came home from school green around the gills and complaining of stomach ache. I had received a call earlier in the day from his school saying that he had complained of nausea, but seemed quite chipper so they would keep an eye on him and not send him home. As I lay him on the sofa, with a glass of full fat coca cola, (because it kills all known stomach bugs) he grumbled when he moved his legs. This was an indicator to me that he may have appendicitis, so I immediately booked him an emergency doctor’s appointment.
An hour later, following a medical examination from his doctor, I was advised that he was to be admitted to our local hospital with suspected appendicitis. Equipped with a doctor’s note, we were seen immediately at A&E by the triage nurse, who failed to answer the question, “why did the Big Bang give human’s an appendix if they serve no purpose?” and then admitted at once to the pediatric ward. On this ward the nursing and medical team fitted a canula to his hand and his bloods were taken. His temperature, blood pressure and pulse were all giving indicators of a mild infection. The Grenade, who is 10 years old, needless to say, was terrified that he was going to have to an operation and tried his damnedest to will that appendix better. He reassured any doctor that cared to listen that he was feeling much better and then asked “what’s your favourite dinosaur?” as a cunning method of distraction.
We were in Odstock Hospital, Salisbury and overnight residents of the Sarum Ward. It was fantastic. We were very lucky to be in a two patient room. Each patient bed had aside a pull down bed with a proper mattress for the attending parent. There was an ensuite bathroom with multi-coloured lights. The children’s facilities were excellent with portable DVDs, Wii and PS2. As a parent I was impressed, but The Grenade instantly went into wifi– withdrawal. “What no internet?” he cried. I had to point out it was a hospital not a hotel. Hagar arrived with a bag of belongings, leaving the Menace under the care of a neighbourly neighbour.
As we settled in for the night there was another round of doctors. One doctor asked The Grenade, “when did you last move your bowel?”
“I am sorry, I don’t understand what you mean.” He replied.
“She means, when did you last have a poo?” I whispered. He looked at the doctor with earnest eyes and said, “there’s no shame in asking someone when they had a poo you know.”
Eventually, it was agreed that we would wait until the morning. The Grenade slept soundly and I slept occasionally. It was a night of crying babies and buzzers. In the morning the pediatrician consultant arrived and, despite The Grenade’s persuasive arguments about his improved state of health, there was no escaping the entire body twitch that he gave when his abdomen was pressed. I suspect they knew all along those bad boys were coming out. From the moment of decision to operate things moved very quickly. Within half an hour he was on a trolley being wheeled into theatre. We kept his mind off the future and he talked freely to the porter about all the inappropriate films he had watched without my consent. *Note to self, reset all parental controls*
I said to the porter, “from here I am just going to hand myself into child services.” Cue, awkward laugh, “ha ha ha!”
The men and women in all over green cotton and neck masks met us and jovially we chatted about Ben’s procedure. He was awash with questions. Those dudes were not going to get off lightly. He wanted to know everything. In the alabaster pre-op room of beeping buttons, digital screens, cabinets and medicine, he was very clear that he required step by step instructions of sleep inducement. I held his hand and watched as they put my baby to sleep. I did not flinch, although I was feeling sick inside, but instead laughed lightly and re-iterated that everything was going to be ok. This is just how it rolled. As he drifted off, the anesthetist looked up, “right, we are ready, give him a kiss and we’ll let you know when to come back.” I duly did as I was told and I bent down and kissed my beautiful boy on the forehead and inside the fear engulfed me, but I choked it down and walked back to the ward. I sat in the chair by his bed and waited. They had said 45 minutes and the clock watching began. TICK TOCK.
10 minutes later I tidied the bed area, re-arranged the bag and Hagar arrived. He was oblivious to where I was. He has faith in the services because he is of the services. I have faith in the services, but I had just watched my beautiful boy’s eyes close on an operating trolley and I was laced with fear and sickness. I was waiting. Tick Tock. 45 minutes passed and there was no news. My waiting limit had expired and yet, I knew, rationally, that this was not unusual. Time divided and every minute that passed doubled. I began to replay the last 24 hours. Had I made the right calls? Could I have done anything differently? On scrutinised examination of the past moments I knew that I hadn’t wasted a minute. An hour and half later I couldn’t bear it any longer I sent Hagar to the desk to enquire. They reassured him that the aforementioned 45 minutes was time in theatre and it was not an exact science. TICK TOCK.
And then, after the longest two hours of my life, the nurse asked me if would like to go back to the surgical ward. “Yes, I would,” I said.
There lay on the bed, in the post-op ward, with a matronly nurse next to him, was my boy, all puffy faced and sleepy. He was pleased to see me, but wondering what took me so long and he was a bit miffed that I wasn’t there when he opened his eyes. But he was awake and that was all that mattered in the then and there. The anesthetist popped in and said, “he had mild appendicitis. It needed to come out.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It had been worth it. We had made the right calls. Now it was back to his ward to begin the recovery and eventually home.
The Grenade had keyhole surgery which means one week on, he is back at school. I would like to thank the Odstock medical team as they were amazing.
The NHS is our greatest asset, we must not let the Tory NHS reforms dismantle this service.
Without the NHS this would have cost us between £12,000 – £15,000 – obviously there are insurance plans, but the reality is like all insurance it would not cover the whole cost. Look at the cost of dentistry as a living example of your medical future.
All it will mean is that the wealthy stay healthy and the poor will die.
BRITAIN PLEASE FIGHT FOR THE NHS