Thank goodness for the NHS

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had more contact with the NHS than I’ve had cause to have for a couple of years. Two visits to the dentist (for one filling & a tooth filing – fun); one trip to my new GP; one prescription; a series of blood tests; and an x-ray.

I spent less than half an hour – in total – waiting for all these appointments and tests. In fact, my dentist is so good, I was out of the chair 1 minute after my first appointment was due to start, because he called me in early. Even the dreaded walk-in blood test clinic involved no more than 5 minutes waiting. (Usually, such trips are like visits to the most boring and painful deli counters in existence.) The longest wait was for the x-ray, but that seemed to be because I’d never been a patient at the hospital before and needed to fill in even more forms.

The total financial cost of all of this? £56.10 – and all bar £7.60 of that was spent on my teeth.

It’s at times like this that I am inordinately grateful for the NHS. I walked into my GP’s surgery with a list of ailments I wanted checking out. I didn’t need to worry that the cost of any treatment I might need would be prohibitive to receiving it. (Unless I happened to need a vast quantity of prescription meds.) I even got to be a guinea pig for a med student, so I was doing my own bit for the education of future generations of doctors.


If only more doctors looked like this…
On Saturday, I read an article about a student in the US who’d just been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. [Not going to lie, the reason my eye was drawn to the article was less about the topic and more about the fact that the image that accompanied it was of George Clooney in ER, c.1997.] It explored the cost of her disease and stupid, innocent, British me, thought that the article would explore how it’s affected her physically. But no, it was about the financial costs and it was horrific reading. The medical bills for the hospital stays and tests that resulted in her diagnosis amounted to $13,246.53. I barely understand the workings out of how this was covered, but clearly she was lucky to have good insurance. 
The thrust of the article was that she now faced the dilemma of how to remain insured, as a soon-to-graduate postgrad and as someone no longer eligible to be covered by their parent’s insurance. It’s terrifying that dilemmas such as whether or not to be uncovered for 6 months, just to qualify for a particular type of insurance, have to be faced. Isn’t someone’s health more important that an insurance company making money? But thus speaks the voice of someone raised by the NHS…
What terrified me even more was the fact that none of the comments on the article complained about the state of US healthcare – they simply accepted it and provided helpful hints for generic medications or insurance loopholes. 
Why oh why do Americans accept this state of affairs? I know that’s a massive generalisation and that many are fighting it, but why aren’t more people? Why are people against Obama’s healthcare legislation that enabled those who couldn’t afford healthcare to have it without financial worries? But, perhaps most importantly for those on this side of the Atlantic, why oh why is our current government so determined to destroy one of our country’s greatest social assets? 

Sick bed reflections

Today marked a turning point. For the first time in three weeks I woke up to an alarm, got out of bed (on three occasions in the last week there have been alarms, but simply to make multiple calls in an attempt to get a Doctor’s appointment) and went to work. Shock to the system to say the very least. I think this is the longest I’ve worn actual clothing (as opposed to PJs) since the day I travelled back from Belfast.

Over the last few weeks I’ve learned a lot. I’ve discovered that you are never too old for daily motherly calls to check on your health and that it is always reassuring to have their back-up that you shouldn’t be at work. (In our home, sick days were so rare that parental approval to stay off school really meant something.) I’ve realised that one needs a lot of patience to get anywhere with the NHS – especially during holidays – and that it’s kind of fun being the person in the Doctor’s waiting room with the awful cough that everyone wants to avoid. Most of all, I’ve come to the opinion that while a couple of sick days can be something of a novelty, several weeks of feeling extraordinarily rubbish truly suck – especially when they coincide with Christmas, New Year and the only time in the year when you get quality time with your whole family.

But enough whimpering and moping. I’m on the road to recovery and 2011 will get better, soon. In the mean time, I have a few sick day tips for you…

1. Do not underestimate the power of multiple pairs of PJs. By this I mean that it’s great to have more than one pair to wear during a day – one to sleep in and then a clean pair to change into after a shower to wear during the day (with underwear) and then change out of at bedtime. This means that you have the illusion of getting dressed and an idea of wearing actual clothes, but are still comfy enough to just crash out on the sofa or in bed. Plus, you don’t spend the day dwelling in sweaty night-time PJs – gross. It’s even better when your ‘daytime’ PJs are brand new Christmas PJs from Fat Face. Of course, this only works if you’re not in a fit state to leave the house as one doesn’t pop to the shops in one’s PJs…

2. However desperate you get, do not fall into the trap of watching Wedding House. I love a good bit of daytime TV, preferably of a house buying/DIY variety, but this show truly takes the biscuit. It’s basically a company that will arrange your entire wedding for you, down to the last detail and each show features three or four couples getting hitched. The fact that all the planning is taken out of your hands severely disturbed me, and some of the company’s idea were quite frankly bizarre. Channel 4 has been forgiven for this piece of scheduling though, being as it followed a daily dose of Glee – meaning that on Friday I saw the last episode of season 1 prior to season 2 starting tonight.

3. Delve into nostalgic DVDs. Last time I had a sick day back in the summer, I ended up ordering Party of Five (and buying Ally McBeal a couple of days later). This time, I was lucky enough to have been given hours of classic entertainment at Christmas, so was able to spend an afternoon in front of The Worst Witch (the 1980’s original film, not the TV series) and an entire day absorbed in the BBC’s Chronicles of Narnia (currently halfway through The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and loving it in all its retro glory). What you need while languishing is comfort food and comfort viewing, thus old favourites are the best.

4. Make good use of the internet. When you have a nocturnal flatmate, daytime human company can be difficult to come by, it’s therefore something of a sanity saver to be able to chat with humans across the country/world via online means. Thank goodness for Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and sympathetic friends. (The not so sympathetic friends can occasionally be amusing too.)

My final tip for you? Take your vitamins and don’t get your feet wet – getting sick really isn’t worth it.

Jaw ache

Illness is (fortunately) something of a rarity in my life. However, it does appear that I’ve had more than my fair share of totally random ailments.

Childhood illnesses included scarlet fever and slapped face virus alongside the more usual mumps and chicken pox. In 6th form I sprained my shoulders and (exactly a year later) an ankle during trampolining lessons. Today, I discovered that what I believed to be a ear infection was in fact a sprained jaw.
Yes, you read that correctly – a sprained jaw. Somehow, without even realising it I’d sprained my right mandible, I think that’s a pretty impressive achievement. (Make no insinuating comments about how I might have caused it please…!)
My Doctor was very sweet in his diagnosis, even demonstrating the problem with a model and teaching me some Latin terminology. (I’m thinking that his bedside manner is possibly what resulted in my appointment being 40 minutes late, but he’s so lovely that I didn’t really mind.) This is a man who on my last visit (2 years ago) declared “you seem like an intelligent woman, do some research and decide what you want to do and come back and tell me” – in response to me asking how best to treat an ongoing issue.
He also berated me for not seeing him more often – but really, why would I want to subject myself to hours in a waiting room full of really ill people and the Jeremy Kyle show the only source of entertainment? (In fact, even if the TV’s not on, you usually get a live version acted out in front of you.) Having the NHS for free doesn’t mean you should just pop in to see your GP for a social visit (or am I missing something?).
I’m rambling, apologies. But one more random comment about this trip to my GP’s – I spent part of the time waiting having a catch up with my friend Claire, who just so happens to be the Community Midwife there. Honestly, this is an utterly random occurrence – we’ve known each other since we were 16, and she ended up being midwife in the area just before I moved here. Our friends find it hilarious that should I get pregnant in this postcode I’d have her looking after me…I’m not laughing. [She’s a lovely friend, but I don’t think you want someone you already know doing that for you!]