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God Bless the NHS. On this day of strikes, doubly bless her, don’t bless her 1%, that is just insulting. When I hear people say, ‘we can’t keep throwing money at the NHS,’ I always ask, ‘why not?’ We throw money at far less deserving causes without even questioning it; corporate tax evasion, undeserved bonuses, property breaks for billionaires, dodgy rail bids, effing Trident, the list is endless. Why not give the NHS the money she needs to be the best health care system in the world? Wouldn’t you be prouder of that as a nation than being a place foreign businesses can go to to avoid paying tax?

This subject is particularly close to my heart today as ten days ago I broke my leg. Looking over my journals I noticed that on the day it happened I had written, ‘ to much rejection lately, give me a break.’ Talk about literal, but I am getting ahead of myself. I’d had a great week, I was working and writing, I’d been a judge at The Small Wonder Festival Short Story Slam and I had a brunch party to look forward to full of good friends and new faces. The Small Wonder Slam was a fantastic event, Rattle Tales’ Lonny Pop was hosting and as the theme was Red Letter Day, she had asked the Rattle Talers helping her to wear red. I bought a pair of red velvet chelsea boots, bright,  block-healed, pointy-toed. They were a thing of beauty and I envisioned a Winter of shimmering scarlet strutting. I was born with a double congenital hip displasia, which resulted in arthritis so severe I had to have a double total hip-replacement by the age of forty. Shoes have never been about heels for me, the statement has always been about colour or design, especially as recently I have noticed my right hip beginning to show signs of wearing out, only flats will do.

I wore my new boots to the Sunday brunch, which was a lovely, lively gathering full of banter and happiness. As I left and walked down the hill to Western Road, the sea sparkling ahead in the late September sun, I remember thinking how happy I was. Within seconds the Universe had pulled the rug from under me, the heel of my left red boot had caught on a broken paving stone and I came crashing down to earth. My lack of balance means I fall fairly often, usually I just get up, shaken, maybe a little bruised, but generally okay. This time when I went to stand, a hot poker of pain wracked my left leg and I realised I couldn’t move it. I tried again with the same result and it was then I knew I’d broken it. I shouted out,l stating the obvious, ‘ OW I have broken my leg!’

What happened next was a bit of a blur. Strangers came to my aid and, as I was only yards from my friend’s front door, familiar faces quickly followed. Pillows and blankets were brought and a paramedic arrived. I was in a state of pain and panic. Gas and air was provided but it did little to stop the pain. An ambulance arrived, my boots were removed and thrown aside, the leg was put in a splint and I was hoisted into an ambulance, turning the air blue at the back of Waitrose. I was seen pretty quickly in A&E, X-rayed, canula inserted, bloods taken and morphine deliciously pumped in. The trouble is, the hospital is stretched to capacity, there were no beds to be admitted into and I ended up spending 20 hours in a bay next to the reception desk with a short spell in the plaster room when a woman having a heart attack needed some privacy. I know I didn’t have a prolonged or life-threatening illness but the pain was probably a 9 whenever I was moved slightly. Pain like that reduces you to instinct, to a trembling sniveling wreck with no logic or strength, a vulnerable mass reliant on the kind professionalism of the staff, and they gave it by the bucket-load.

Three days later I had hip revision surgery in an NHS hospital after a surgeon cancelled commitments to fit me in. The next day I took advantage of my husband’s work insurance plan and moved to a private hospital. Now private is nice, there’s no denying that, the room is big and modern, the food is excellent, you get your own TV. The nursing is the same though, your obs get done at intervals, your medication is dispensed, your dressing changed, it’s no better and no worse. As you get better you get less attention. I could have had my hip surgery at the private hospital but as it was I would have to have waited another day for a space in surgery, the NHS took away my pain 24 hours earlier. 24 hours is a long time when you are in that much pain. I’ve see the world from both sides now and there was one difference I noticed – private nurses don’t get asked to stay on after shift. In every department I was in at the County Hospital I witnessed staff being asked to work overtime or being called in on their days off and, as far as I could tell, they always did it . Would you do that for a measly 1% pay rise? Their dedication is being taken advantage of, for them to even contemplate a strike tells you how bad things have got.

God Bless the NHS, she deserves a little bit more respect.

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