Six weeks ago, the unthinkable happened, right there, on the sofa; my previously healthy husband had a heart attack. I dialled 999 and dragged him off the sofa in one movement and within seconds was performing CPR. And screaming at him. Then the paramedics arrived and I heard the dreaded word – ‘Clear!’ – and then silence; I have to admit, for a while there, it’s a bit of a blur.
Then suddenly, he was away from me, in an ambulance and the chaos that is A&E awaited. But… and here comes the bit that news media doesn’t want to hear… the staff were all fabulous, the care he got was exemplary. There were no trollies in the corridors, no dirt, no mess, no waiting. Just a team all gathered round him, adding tubes and leads; arranging a bed in a nearby centre of excellence; sorting an Air Ambulance. Reception staff were patient, while dealing with members of the public abusing them because my husband had ‘jumped the queue’.
I was hugged, consoled, told the truth – he might not make it, but if he didn’t, it wasn’t going to be because he wasn’t fighting or that I had done anything wrong in the CPR. He was packed up like a Christmas parcel and loaded onto the helicopter on the way to QAH, in Cosham.
And then, the waiting. And the discovery that, pressured and beleaguered though it is, the NHS can really pull out all the stops, if you do the same. My husband, chilled to 36 degrees, intubated, sedated, with a balloon pump to keep his heart going, perhaps didn’t look as if he was bringing much to the table, but my word, that man’s a fighter. My son and his wife and baby son were with us on the long trip back to normal. And all the time, the nurses and doctors were by our side, caring, professional and I don’t hesitate to say loving. We got attached to ‘our’ first nurse, Ben, who quietly changed his next shift so he would be there next day as well. There was Liz, Edwin, Christian, Francisco, Claire, May, Edgar, Peter, David… the list is endless of people who know their jobs inside out and how to go the extra mile.
We were warned that we might not get ‘him’ back, except in body, as he may have had oxygen deprivation in the first minutes after the attack. But, he is back. He doesn’t remember the actual event or the few days before it and his memory of his hospital stay is sketchy to absent, but everything else is fine; fine because someone in that A&E saw that he could make it; because the air ambulance and two centres of excellence were there; that the nurses, doctors, physios, all give their time and love without condition. And because he wasn’t ready to go – but spirit alone is nothing without the NHS.
So – NHS knockers; Stop It! Time wasters – go to your pharmacy if you feel a bit under the weather. Read what it says on the sign; ‘Accident and Emergency’. It doesn’t say ‘Feeling a bit iffy and want some medicine’. Cussers and swearers – keep it to yourself.
Being writers, we thought, hey – let’s get to the media, tell them how fabulous everyone has been. We’re not uber-famous, but eighty books is no small feat, he’s been on telly as well, so we thought that the local media at least would print this feel-good story. But no. We didn’t even get a phone call, an email in reply. It turns out that good news is no news.
If we have learned anything, it is this. Don’t listen to all the news about lines of grandmas left to languish on trollies in corridors. Don’t listen to the stories about filth and ‘third world care’. Listen to the real news that isn’t news, that the NHS is alive and well – if a little underfunded. And get out there, do what you can to help the funding. We write, so that’s what we’re going to do. Our daughter-in-law is doing a run. Our son is putting on an all-day music fund raiser. Everyone can do something to help. But most of all, love and cherish our NHS – like the NHS, 70 years old this year and feeling her age, loves and cherishes us.