At this time of year, I’m always on edge when I see ambulances flying past with blue lights and sirens. Only last year I happened to be a passenger in the front of a speeding ambulance on the way to hospital as my Dad struggled in the back with his breathing having succumbed to a severe deterioration of his illness. Knowing what it’s like to sit for hours on a plastic chair, listening to beeping machines, surrounded by various medical staff whistling in and out and all the while being intimidated by the surroundings of the Resuscitation room and all the equipment, I can’t help but feel an intense sorrow that someone else may be about to go through the very same experience.
No one wants to be in hospital for any reason other than having a baby. A hospital speaks of pain, of anguish, of upset and for anyone who doesn’t need to be there, it is an experience that can feel as if a bag has been upturned and all your belongings are thrown to the floor in the dark, scattered without a trace whilst you fumble to pick up the pieces. Last night would be the first time I’d return to the hospital without it being related to Dad, and my feelings are mixed between upset of the reminder but also a strange feeling of nostalgia that the closeness we shared in attending appointments and check-ups is something that can never be returned.
In the grand scheme of things, everything is okay. No injuries are serious, no one is in any great pain and all it will take is some time to heal and a bit of caring on my part, which I’m no stranger to. In an odd and almost macabre way, I’m going to relish feeling a purpose to have to look after someone. Thankfully, the surroundings we’re dealing with are very different, there are no desperate claws for oxygen equipment and the medical staff are much more efficient and aware of the speciality they are working with. Unfortunately for Dad, when he was admitted to hospital, especially once his illness had deteriorated quite rapidly, there was a lot of added agitation due to staff not being fully prepared or willing to adapt to his needs. And it pains me to think that things may not have changed.
What is striking to me is having to confront the reality of what A&E departments are having to face. An endless array of patients being admitted with increasing complexities of illness whilst a skeleton set of staff are fighting an ever-increasing fire that is rapidly falling out of control. Yet they power on with exquisite efficiency, the upmost care for their patients and no essence of how much they might be desperately paddling their flippers underwater to stay afloat. You see the news outlets forever circling the NHS like vultures as its left to rot, but no one can account for its true state unless they live and breathe it or have to deal with the system in their own agony.
For my Dad, the moment he was diagnosed with IPF, he was facing a losing battle. The disease has little awareness and a dismal prognosis that would be the death of him within two years. The NHS was never going to win, all they could do was provide comfort and care, and most importantly of all, hope. Looking back, the one thing I’m so grateful for was that my Dad, despite his pain, was the hope that a miracle could happen at the hands of the incredible NHS staff who tirelessly fought for his quality of life. That although his illness was progressive, there always seemed like another option and there was always somebody who sat and listened to him in his hour of need. Maybe, it’s time we turn the tables and give the NHS what it has always given us, that feeling of hope despite decay and all the more, the opportunity to genuinely listen in their time of need.