A Little Trip to the NHS

I haven’t had time to write this up and I don’t have much now so I’ll keep this brief. But I wanted to say something about an event from last week. It deserves a mention.

So one evening my wife complained of having asthma issues. Her puffer had no effect – in fact, things got worse – and soon she was struggling to breathe while complaining that her arms and legs were getting tingly. A phone call was made and we soon had a paramedic out. Her name was Julie and she was incredibly friendly. A large part of her time was spent reassuring my wife. She did various tests but she managed to calm my wife down, tell her things were working well, and soon she was breathing a lot better.

Yet an ambulance was called out. My wife wanted one. She still had a pain in her chest and, with her medical history as well as that of her family’s, it was worrying her a lot. We could all see that she wasn’t going to totally relax until she knew what was wrong. As the ambulance pulled up, Julie remarked: “I hope they’re nice.” Clearly she was concerned that this had been called out to a woman who was now chatting away, despite the fact she could barely talk when Julie had arrived.

The two ambulance men were very nice as well. One did most of the talking, asking my wife a lot of questions about her health and what happens in the US (where she is from). He was a funny bloke who sat in the back with us on the way to the hospital and explained a lot of issues my wife had suffered earlier, such as the limbs getting tingly due to her taking in too much oxygen by breathing fast. The other man was quieter with a dry sense of humour that amused us.

Once at the hospital, we were seen right away. Admittedly, it was just after midnight on a week night, so things were quiet, but it was still great to be spoken to by a doctor almost instantly after getting settled. He asked a number of questions and listened as my wife explained her issues and medical history once again. Then came more tests, carried out by a highly amiable male nurse who was giving the thumbs up and saying cool throughout our time there.

Speaking of which, our time there was brief. We were warned we could be there a few hours minimum, but after tests and x-rays she was allowed to leave. It had taken about two hours. Not that she didn’t have a problem though. The pain in her chest was an inflammation, pressing against her ribs. She had been given certain medicine soon after the doctor first spoke to us but the pain had persisted, so we were given a strong painkiller to take home. She was instructed by the doctor to take it, get rest and it will get better. Why it had become inflamed was unknown, it was just one of those things that can happen. Rest and it will heal.

The staff at the hospital were fantastic. Kind, chatty, helpful, informative, professional. In the end, we joked about how the whole thing had been a fun trip. But it hadn’t started out that way. My wife had been rasping for breath at one point. Even later on, when she was better and talking, the pain persisted and she would never have calmed down without knowing why this pain was there. Going to the hospital solved that.

As I mentioned earlier, my wife is American. She is also low income. She was astonished by the treatment of the NHS. Let’s put aside the cost for now, as that’s an obvious one. But she loved being talked to rather than talked at and being treated rather than shipped about. She had trouble explaining to the NHS staff that in the US she gets tested and given medicine and then ushered out. So she struggled to answer some of their questions. In the US, she has been messed about, let down and left reeling by the doctors she has dealt with. She also openly despises the system where a change in insurance means a change of doctor. My family has had the same one for years. But when we were leaving the hospital, she was asked to fill out a small form to reveal how she had felt about the hospital. She gave it glowing marks and wrote that it was ‘the best hospital ever!!’ My wife is prone to exaggeration, I admit, but from her view she wasn’t kidding.

I don’t go to the doctor much, let alone a hospital. I think the last few times I have been to one it has been to visit someone else. But seeing someone I care about being treated, made better, truly looked after, and her reaction as she realised that this would cost me £8 for the medicine, made me appreciate the NHS so much more than usual. My dad is a big supporter of it and often moans about the way it is portrayed in the media. He isn’t wrong. But that night, I saw first-hand how well it can go, with friendly, helpful staff, and the low cost. Obviously, this isn’t a blanket statement about the entirety of the NHS. I know it has issues. But I saw what it can be. How important it is to us. How it needs to be supported more. The NHS isn’t there to be profitable. It is there for people who need it and who would struggle to pay the savage costs of private care.

That night, I was proud of it. My American wife was in awe of it. I think that speaks volumes.

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