The Road to Recovery: “Hooray, I’ve got crutches. But it’s the NHS that needs supporting.”
It’s hard to describe just how thrilling the apparently mundane event of receiving a pair of crutches was for me. I’d equate it with passing my A levels, receiving my degree, landing my first job on a national newspaper.
OK I had promise not to use them outdoors, and to not even think of using them without having someone within close catching distance. I am still a way from being back to full health. But still, major hurdle. Cleared.
Did I mention that the pair I was given were brand new, and free? This piece isn’t intended as a hooray for the NHS, but given that the institution is currently taking hits from all sides and faces “reforms” that may yet wreck it, here’s the take not of an expert, a pontificating politician or a failed businessman with time on his hands, but of a user.
It was only seven months ago that I was in an intensive care unit having smashed my pelvis, most of my ribs and bones in my legs, arms and back after a road accident. Not to mention the damaged nerves and collapsed lungs.
Now I have crutches – and walking with them actually feels like walking as opposed to stooping and staggering with a frame – when the initial prognosis was that I would be extremely lucky just to be out of hospital by now.
Jeelna (the brilliant physio who gave me the crutches) was kind enough to credit me with doing “the hard work” to get here. It’s true that half the battle when recovering from the type of injuries I suffered is won or lost by the patient. But only half the battle.
The other half requires expert care.
And yet, I haven’t had to pay a penny for the work of physiotherapists like Camille and her colleagues at the Royal London, followed by Emily and Joshi at Whipps Cross. Alan, who has been a more or less weekly visitor to my house, came on similar terms. As did Jeelna who has overseen the hyrdrotherapy and latterly the land based work which has led to the issue of those crutches. The credit for my progress is theirs as much as it is mine.
The same is true for the doctors and surgeons who brought me back from the brink of death at the Royal London and who are responsible for the fact that I am now able to write this blog. As well the fact that, while I’m not yet working full time, I am fit enough to a least contribute to The Independent. I shouldn’t forget the nurse who first got me out of bed and provided the kick that I needed to get started. And the others who looked after me.
But as I said, this blog is not intended to offer a blank cheque. While I am very, very grateful to the NHS, I’m well aware that it has some serious flaws. It’s impossible to spend three months in hospital followed by four months of out patient treatment without encountering some of them.
There are the personnel who, despite being in a caring profession, act as if they couldn’t care less. Like the gum chewing nursing auxiliary at Whipps who spat at me that I shouldn’t use the call button in the early hours because it “makes a horrible noise” despite me being in desperate need of morphine thanks to the searing pain in my feet that I still suffer from today.
Or the way the transfer between the two hospitals was handled: I spent 45 minutes on an ambulance trolley at Whipps because they weren’t ready for me. I was then left for 14 hours without painkillers because no doctor could be found to okay the drugs that my notes said had already been prescribed to me, leaving me curled up in a ball of agony.
Then those same doctors were unable to view my X-rays because the IT systems weren’t compatible.
Then there are the constant – and draining – fights I have had to get into as an out patient to get the care I need.
So I am by no means blind to the fact that the NHS could do with some improvement. And many of the improvements it needs wouldn’t require much extra money. Just a dose of humanity among some knuckle headed administrators.
And a few people receiving a long over due dressing down. And perhaps a few politicians instructing those managers to sack a few of their colleagues instead of frontline medical staff: one of the more poignant moments for me while at the London was speaking to a nurse who had no idea what her future held and was genuinely afraid. She seemed pretty competent to me.
Yes, the NHS needs reforming, no it can’t be a bottomless pit of money. But what it certainly does not need is the ideologically driven organisational witches brew proposed by David Cameron and his creature Andrew Lansley, which doesn’t appear to me to address any of the issues I’ve highlighted and doesn’t look like it will even save much money.
As for more private sector involvement, great if it works. But I’ve covered business for over a decade and I can tell you the private sector is no miraculous panacea. There are no guarantees that it will do things better. Just look at the banks.
A fried of mine of has spent the last year or so teaching English in South Korea. Here’s what she said about the NHS: “I love the NHS! I know it is s**t sometimes and completely underfunded but we should always appreciate it. Living now in a country where healthcare is not free, and being friends with Americans who back home cannot afford to go to the hospital, I truly am grateful for our national health service!!”
Another friend, who has been in America the last few years, said of my travails: “You’re bloody lucky. Here the first thing they’d have asked you for is your insurance details.”Tagged in: crutches, healthcare, hospital, nhs, recovery, rehabilitation, RTA
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