So it’s been a fairy eventful week, one that has included experiences that left me shocked, scared and worried for the future but also overwhelming grateful, loved, cared for and hopeful.
Seven days ago with no little amount of anxiety I along with my wife and best friend made our way to the Shalbourne Suite at the Great Western Hospital, I was off to have my umbilical hernia fixed, this as it turns out was one of the more straight forward parts of the week. The staff where all fantastic not once did I feel judged or like I was different even after what sounds like some quite spectacular stimming as I was coming around from the anaesthetic I cannot thank them enough, it is not often that I feel even close to accepted when not at home and not masking.
Leading up to the operation I had been trying to negotiate my time off work afterwards, I was fairly sure that I would be able to return to work after a few days, the surgeon said 2 weeks and my wife and boss both agreed no matter how hard I tried to change this. My opinion had not changed after the surgery I was sore and uncomfortable but felt I would recover quickly. It hurt a bit but wasn’t that painful. Then a few hours later I realised that I was not somehow more knowledgeable than the doctor it went from uncomfortable to downright painful. I had no clue what had changed? I have since discovered they inject a local anaesthetic into the wound post op and the increase in pain was this wearing off.
That should of been that, realising that I really did need to rest and recover should have seen me doing just that and having a reasonably relaxed time and that is what happened on Sunday. Then Monday came, I emailed my boss to let her know everything had gone well and got back to my resting. An hour later and everything changed I thought my chest was going to explode the pain was excruciating and not matter what I did it wasn’t getting any better my chest and now stomach felt as though someone was filling them with steel and they were going to burst. I had no idea what to do so tried to do what I always do when lost I phoned my wife, she’d calm things down and I’d be fine.
My wife was at work and having tried her mobile with no luck I rang her work and still had no luck so left a message asking her to ring me and sent her a text. Having down that I went back to worrying and being unsure what to do. The problem was nothing was getting better so despite worrying about wasting people’s time I rang 111 to ask for medical advice. After 10 mins on the phone having to answer a lot of questions whilst being barely able to talk let alone think I had been told what I needed to do. I needed to attend an emergency department within the hour and I had to get myself there.
Now I can find needing to go to the doctors for a check up stressful and try to have someone with me, you need to get yourself to an emergency unit whilst in pain, anxious and alone. Not a clue I was lost, not that things stayed that way for long as 10 mins later and I was on the floor crying as the pain took everything. After some uncertainty and now starting to think that maybe this was it I was dying (maybe a little melodramatic) I decided I had no choice I had to ring for an ambulance. After a further 5/10 mins the first of two crews arrived, my wife had rung and was on her way home arriving just before I was whisked off in an ambulance with the wonderful crew.
That started a day spent in pain, in hospital and in a state of anxiety. Again a can’t say enough how wonderful the nurses, doctors and everyone was, how lucky I am to live in a country where I don’t have to worry about the financial impact of paying medical bills and most of all how grateful I am to have the love and support of my wife. After all the tests I still am not clear what is wrong, I do know that it wasn’t anything wrong with my heart or chest and most likely gastrointestinal as having a massive IV dose of my normal meds got rid of the pain. Fortunately this meant I was allowed to go home even though I had to return the next day for more tests and have even more to look forward to.
My experience over these two days was also affected by sadness as I encountered things that left me feeling that something had gone wrong. It’s been 20 yrs since I spent any time in the back of an ambulance from the outside they look fairly new and impressive, it turns out that all is not as it seems. The ambulance I travelled in was clear quite old and in need of care itself. Seats where stuck, not all of the doors and steps worked and it looked a bit tatty and unkempt. This isn’t the end of the world and I am in no way complaining about it but this was a theme that pervaded my whole experience of these days. The Emergency Unit again seemed to have modern equipment that was great but there clearly weren’t enough staff or beds and most of the chairs were a damaged mish mash. The entrance to the hospital looked modern and well cared for as did some other areas but then you would go through a set of doors and find areas that didn’t look like they had changed for 30 years or more.
To be be clear I am not bashing the NHS I think it and everyone who works in it are great and I wouldn’t be without it, I know how lucky we are to have it. What saddens me is the fact that we have reached a point where ambulance staff feel like they should apologise because the ambulance door doesn’t work, where nurses and Doctors in emergency units are rushing around and don’t have time to stop. Where things look ok on the surface but are crumbling behind closed doors. I know the answer isn’t just more money and I am no expert but I do know that those wonderful caring people who devote themselves to the rest of us at times when we are most in need are being sold short and not getting the support they need to do their jobs.
This moves me into the second part of the week and the general election. Never for one second did I believe that there would be any other outcome than a Tory government something that filled and fills me with a profound sense of hopelessness. I have a confession though I haven’t always disliked the Tories in fact I have met David Cameron on a few occasions and I found him to be a nice person. In my defence whilst I did grow up poor I also grow up in the Tory heartlands I didn’t know any better I was the very thing I argued I wasn’t; white, male and privileged. Over the years life changes and you have different experiences and mine led me to seeing the world in a different light, hence feeling down about the thought of the Tories being in power for longer. I was I think like many shocked by the results and how well Labour did and am feeling both more hopeful and anxious about the future.
So seven days have past and whilst I wouldn’t say I’ve learnt things exactly I have realised things or they have become clearer and whilst I could pull all of these apart I think I can some it up quite concisely. Things will happen that I like or don’t like no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise for fear of change and that the love that some have for me and that many have for other people in general is overwhelming and truly comforting. I am going to try to take time to stop and recognise this more often and not wait for the times this realisation is thrust upon me.
Thank you to everyone who has been and is there for others.
Aspie and Proud