5 overnights in hospital

With the NHS under so much pressure I’ve been thinking about what I owe it. And before I get into that let’s be clear that it’s under pressure on two fronts. First is the obvious one of Covid and let’s all note the incredible debt we now owe to the people of the NHS which have worked extraordinarily hard. Johnson blusters about the parties in Downing Street and justifies them because everybody’s been working very hard without considering the NHS people who didn’t have any parties because they stuck to the rules.

The second front is the Tories and their obvious intent to ‘privatise’ the NHS. If that happens the NHS as we know it to day will cease to exist. By all means improve it, you might start by reducing demand on it by investing more in public health, but don’t destroy it. Of course other countries have different systems which also work well but they’ve got to where they are by processes of evolution over decades. There’s no way you can simply magic a better system than the NHS, it exists within a national framework and if you don’t change that you mustn’t change the NHS.

1 as a small child in Liverpool: I would have been just four or five and all I can remember is that I had a bed-wetting problem. For some reason this needed me to spend the best part of a week in hospital in Liverpool. I must have been dreadfully sad and lonely because all I can remember is a visit from my mother and grandfather when I begged to be taken home. ‘Hide me under your coat’ I said as they were leaving.

There is a positive though I guess. I’ve not had a bed-wetting problem since.

2 concussion in Hong Kong: I moved to Hong Kong in 1976 and quickly sought out the rugby playing community. My first game was with the Hong Kong Football Club against Valley. I was playing in the centre and chased a kick forward intending to touch down and score a try. That was the last I remembered until I was referred by one of the Valley players who said I seemed to be in a bad way. I was then driven to one of Hong Kong’s hospitals and was admitted for observation. My guess is I was concussed. However it can’t have been serious because I was released the next morning and found my way home.

I didn’t then and and haven’t since experienced any ill effects but on reflection I should at the time have been more critical of the Football Club in not being more alert to my condition and acting earlier. I did however not play for them again and instead joined Valley which was a less ‘establishment’ club and more to my liking.

I never did find out whether or not I did score that try.

3 appendicitis in Richterswil: it would have been in the mid 80s and just before Xmas and I felt very rough and nauseous. I rang my doctor’s practice and got an appointment straight away, this was in Switzerland but I don’t know if it’s still like that, and the doctor, Doctor Berghof, reckoned it was appendicitis. He had to check of course and that involved the dreaded blue gloves and a finger up my bum. He would also have commissioned a blood test and my white blood cell count was very, very high.

Doctor Berghof quickly booked me into Richterswil Hospital, conveniently in the village where I lived, and I spent about 24 hours there with the doctors holding off surgery and giving my blood count time to reduce again. It did but my stay was otherwise punctuated by doctors and nurses entering my room gleefully pulling on the blue gloves. They poked around and asked me if there was any pain. When I finally said ‘no’ they asked me why given that earlier I’d said ‘yes’. ‘I’m getting used to it I said’.

I’ve had appendicitis a few times since but it’s always come and gone within 24 hours. Fingers crossed it won’t recur.

4 hip replacement in Richterswil: I’d worked for Dow for over 15 years and not taken a single sick day, as chance would have it my concussion and appendicitis above both happened just before non-working days. To some extent I made up for that with the two weeks in hospital for my hip replacement and subsequent recuperation.

It had been clear for some time that my left hip was deteriorating and would have to be replaced. The specialist who saw me, Dr Schick, said I’d know when and so in August 1994 I checked into Richterswil Hospital for my big op.

It went well. I was to have an epidural so was vaguely awake during the operation and witnessed sounds more like a carpenter’s shop than an operating theatre. Before the op itself when the lights above weren’t on I could use them as a mirror to watch a catheter being threaded into my penis. Talk about an out of body experience

In less than a couple of hours I was back in my room and able to call Juni and tell her that all was well.

All was well until about a week in when I contracted an infection (was it MRSA?) which led to Dr Schick lancing the infection site without any form of anaesthetic as I looked on. I scraped myself off the ceiling. I must have been given a dose of antibiotics but it cleared up nicely and I was released shortly afterwards to begin my recuperation.

It’s now 2021 which means that it’s over 27 years since my op. The average life of an artificial hip is said to be ten years so I must have been doing something right. I’ve kept my weight off and taken care of my muscle condition and had regular check-ups at Addenbrookes. I’ve run a few 10k races and, maybe most important, there’s no sign of any degradation of my right hip.

Tooth op in Impington: this doesn’t count because it wasn’t an overnight. Just a quick in early on an early March morning in 2018 and out in time for lunch minus two teeth. One was an easy visible tooth in my top right, the other an ectopic tooth buried deep in my mouth behind it. Click here to read about it.

5 cardio event in Cambridge: this is the story of me dodging a bullet. As the result of a minor, or so I thought, chest discomfort a bunch of alert doctors decided that it was appropriate for me to be admitted to Addenbrookes for investigation and to be ready for an angiogram at Royal Papworth.

This was pre-Covid days of course and I witnessed the NHS at its most caring and professional. I’d gone in to see a specialist on the way to the airport for a trip to Spain on the Tuesday morning following August bank holiday Monday. Dr Krishnan firmly but politely persuaded me that being admitted was better than going to Spain and after that I was just in a process. Addenbrookes was just the holding bay whilst a slot was identified at Royal Papworth when I would be moved over. That happened on the Thursday morning and just after lunch ( I had none) I was flat on my back with Dr Kilani first running the angiogram and then inserting a stent. It only took a half hour or so and I was soon back in my room enjoying a late lunch.

The whole experience was something else. Addenbrookes is good but it’s a District General Hospital albeit a large and rather good one. Royal Papworth is world class and it’s modern. The rooms have enormous flat screen TVs and the food is a notch up from the Addenbrookes offering, which itself is in no way unsatisfactory. The Lab where I had my angioplasty was like mission control with a bunch of people inside some sort of control chamber and just Dr Kilani and one other administering to me directly. I was flat on my back fully awake throughout the procedure, I just had to keep still as I listened to this two way coded conversation between Dr K and mission control. Then did he really say ‘you’re right coronary artery is blocked, should I clear it out and insert a stent’? If he did I would have mumbled yes, gratefully, and that was it.

I’ve blogged about my experience with my stent several times (click here for a post about my op and the events leading up to it) but now nearly two and a half years later I seem to be OK. Albeit I’m doing my bit to add to the NHS’ expenses by taking four medications a day. I get lots of exercise, I’m on an insanely healthy diet with pretty well zero sat fat, and I monitor my blood pressure (running at about 120/60 with a heart rate of a little over 50). I get a biannual blood lipids check and from being at the top end of acceptable my cholesterol level is now in the middle of the healthy range.

That’s it. Just got to hope that (1) the Tories don’t do their worst with the NHS, and (2) I have no reason to return to hospital for an appendectomy, a replacement hip or more stents. I’ll do my best to behave in a manner to mitigate such risks.

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