I don’t usually blog twice in one day! But you have to read this from my friend and hospital volunteer Graham Taylor: freelance journalist; ranconteur; comedian; all round good egg, and now heart attack survivor. In a week when our NHS has taken such a battering, this reminds us that its importance remains undiminished.
“For a brief moment, the tears flowed as I realised the enormity of what the paramedic told me as I lay in considerable distress on the lounge floor.
“We think you’re having a heart attack, and we need to get you to A&E as quickly as possible,” said Chris, who along with his colleague Melanie had, in the brief few minutes since they answered the 999 call to my Norton, Worcester, home, eased the chest pain with morphine, thinned my blood with asprin and similar agents and confirmed my worst fears with a mobile ECG print-out.
From that moment on, my life truly was in their hands, and in those of all the wonderful doctors, nurses and other vital staff who, day-after-day, manage to somehow save one life after another at Worcestershire’s Royal Hospital.
The Friday before what was to become my ‘lost weekend’ had promised much, with friends from Dorset enjoying a leisurely breakfast after a wonderful two-day stay. Thank God they were in no rush to leave, for by 9.15am I was complaining of a tight chest, troubled breathing, pains down both arms and a fevered brow brought on by a growing sense of panic. It was they who summoned the ambulance, and by roughly 10.15am I was being wheeled into A&E where a waiting team of medics prepared me for an immediate procedure to unblock two arteries which would, in normal circumstances, be supplying blood to my heart.
Ten minutes later, and I had my first glimpse of cardiac consultant Helen Routledge, who with the help of a largely anonymous yet equally dedicated team, began the amazing process of getting my ‘dicky ticker’ working normally again. Flat on my back on the theatre table, still in pain but by now considerably reassured by an explanation of the repair process, Helen masterminded the introduction of stents into two arteries, which immediately eased the pressure and, at last, the discomfort. And all this performed in about 30 minutes, under local anaesthetic, with access through an artery in my wrist, while a roving camera relayed images of the process on to a screen immediately in line with the surgical team.
The relief at the removal of those two blockages was more or less instant, and my wonder when it was all over – with nothing but a small bee-sting mark on the wrist – knew no bounds. It’s a bloody miracle, I thought, and proceeded to lavish high praise on not just those involved, but on any member of the hospital staff, from porters, cleaning staff and volunteers, to pharmacists, nursing sisters, nurses and admin staff.
Recovering in the cardiac care unit, part of Laurel Suite, I reflected on the events of the past few hours, and on how the life-saving care I had received over that period contrasted with the tidal wave of negative publicity directed at the NHS in general, and at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in particular. As a local newspaper journalist over more years than I care to remember, it’s fair to say I have played my part in highlighting episodes at hospitals and health centres where care appears from time to time to have fallen well short of expectations. But while it is right to highlight scandals such as that at Stafford, personal experience of the NHS would suggest that such incidents are few and far between, with millions of people like myself being treated with care, compassion and respect at all times – and I speak as a bereaved husband with two daughters who almost six years ago lost his beloved partner of 30 years at the age of 54 to the ravages of breast cancer.
The treatment and care she received at Birmingham’s QE, and which I received at Worcester Royal, could not have been better, and I will forever give thanks that the NHS was there to offer ground-breaking treatment and aftercare when we needed it most. It’s my contention that in these days of mass consumerism and ‘people power’, our expectations of what a hospital can achieve and of the service we are entitled to may be far to high. OK, so you might not like the food, the attitude of the receptionist, the treatment you receive or the speed of discharge, but just remember, the primary aim of your NHS is to save and prolongue lives, not lay on a five-star hotel experience with waitress service and staff at your beck and call.
So come on, let’s all be a bit more realistic. And if you happen like myself to have had your life saved by the technology, skills and joined-up processes on offer at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, then you’re probably in the vast majority of the thousands of injured and suffering patients and visitors who pass through those doors every day of the year.”