Here’s a happy story about the NHS- a very personal one for Christmas. In common with lots of other boomers I know, one of my hips reached crisis point in my early 70s. Last summer when I found it really tough to walk a mile I faced up to the fact that I had to do something serious about it. So I applied for an appointment with an orthopaedic consultant, expecting that the whole process would take a year. At least.
My consultation in a west London hospital took place in early September with a cool dude of Arab extraction but very integrated British in style . He sized me up in about five minutes. Yes, I needed a radical hip replacement. In about 9 months? I did have another option. Private treatment by himself and the whole team. 16.5 k was the fee.
I hesitated. I’m so glad I did. To my utter amazement I was called for an NHS op on 13 December. Would strike action cause a cancellation? No, this hospital’s nurses’ ballot didn’t reach the threshold for strike action.
General anesthetic or spinal injection, leaving me awake for the one and a half procedure listening to the sound of drilling into my body? I gulped and opted for the injection. Better all round I was assured. As it happened, a battery of spinal injections left me dozing throughout. I woke up asking : ” has it happened yet”?
Recovery began painfree with a frozen bottom half. Then the hard work started.
As the anaesthetic wore off, a mass of painkillers held the worst of surging pain at bay. Crutches were produced, awkward bloody things, for me to begin to master.
Two days later I was discharged. Here, my luck has held. My married daughter who runs a set of Radio music networks has come to stay in my ground floor flat to manage the start of the long haul to full recovery, beginning with literally, waiting on me hand and foot and acting as my exercise coach. She runs her broadcasting stations and her family mainly from my spare bedroom. My mobility is very restricted I cannot move around with hot liquids and food. The crutches take up all my dexterity. How people manage without family or a generous social care package I simply cannot imagine.
Christmas Day will involve my first transportation to my daughter’s house for the day. I need to let you know I will take my NHS supplied raised toilet seat with me.
Hip replacements are regarded almost like major dental work by the medical world. But they are still major surgery. I wouldn’t describe mine as an ordeal, more an Experience.
In the outside world everybody says nothing in this country is working and I hardly need to explain why they think so.
But here is my personal corrective. I can hardly be the only one. Everything about my initial treatment and after care has been brilliant. Thank you NHS. And my wonderful family.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London