Ah, lovely Nurse Anita, it wasn’t your fault that I woke up on Friday morning with one side of my face swollen up like I’d been punched.
And it wasn’t your fault that the swelling…erm…swelled over the course of the day to incorporate my ear and eye, nor that my fever spiked and sent me (more) doolally.
It wasn’t your fault that it was also my youngest’s birthday and I spent it first at the GP and then, by Saturday afternoon, in A&E.
It wasn’t your fault, lovely Nurse Anita, that the A&E department at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, resembled a war zone, filled with sick people left to wait it out on the floor, with sick bowls full of sick left to linger and be accidentally kicked over, with bloody tissues and swabs and empty bottles and cups and food wrappers and papers piling up under chairs and in corners, nobody’s responsibility, nobody’s department to take pride in, no budget set aside for a cleaner.
It wasn’t your fault that the nice fella at the check-in desk warned me the wait would be very long as I cast around for a place to sit, nor that when I found a chair with only one bowl of vomit to move and a pile of bloody cotton wool, the woman opposite told me she’d been there since 9am.
It wasn’t your fault that when my fever spiked again in the waiting room and the triage nurse said she’d try to find me somewhere to lie down, there was nowhere to lie down, nor that when another nurse inserted a cannula in my arm in readiness for the drip he knew I would need, I was sent back to the waiting room to sit for a further three hours, with no treatment.
It wasn’t your fault that when a doctor finally called my name I was too delirious to hear it until she shouted very loudly, nor that she queried meningitis which made me cry ALOT in shock as a nurse pumped antibiotics and paracetamol into my arm while a lovely specialist said he thought not meningitis YET but a deep flesh infection which needed me to be admitted promptly for intravenous antibiotics, morphine, steroids and “lots of rest and food and drink.”
Nurse Anita, this when I knew that A&E may have been hellish, but I was soon to be enveloped in the loving arms of my NHS and MORPHINE. Everything was going to be ok.
It wasn’t your fault that when the porter came to take me to the ward, he couldn’t find a wheelchair so I had to walk, nor that it didn’t occur to him to offer to help with my bag even though I could barely walk, nor that he was just a young fella on a zero-hours contract with no training or job security (I know coz I asked), nor that when we arrived at the ward, it turned out not to be a ward but another waiting room with chairs rammed tightly together, each filled with a very poorly person and where I spent a further SEVEN hours without treatment.
It wasn’t your fault, Nurse Anita, that the staff in this ‘admissions suite’ hadn’t read their copy of the NHS constitution which sets out six core values: compassion, dignity, respect, consideration, empathy and pride. I’m not sure they’d even received basic training. They treated our requests for water with rolling eyes and when I asked if the elderly lady next to me who was in excruciating pain might be offered a blanket I was told: ‘this is not a ward.’ As if we didn’t know.
It wasn’t your fault that after five hours on a chair I tearfully mentioned to a nurse that I was worried my treatment hadn’t been started yet and after an hour, she begrudgingly instructed me to lie on the only bed in the unit, in front of all the other waiters, where I was put on a drip and given steroids and MORPHINE AT LAST as I shivered under my coat (no blankets, remember).
Lovely nurse Anita, it wasn’t your fault, that the only bed they could find for me two hours later at 3am, twelve hours after I arrived in A&E, was on a vascular ward where women were recovering from amputations and crying out in pain all night so that sleep was impossible and I found my own tears kept coming until, at 6am, in you walked.
You came to me with your wonderful face, your sensational smile, asking how I was feeling and did I need an extra blanket and hang on, let’s get you some toast and you’re late for your next dose of meds I’ll get that sorted PRONTO and for the next fourteen hours of what should have been a nine hour shift, you were kind and efficient and missed all your breaks and stroked arms and reassured and organised doctors and made sure everyone was eating and when finally, you had to leave, you came to say you were sorry that I should have been discharged at 7pm because you’d organised my prescription personally and chased it three times and you knew, though you didn’t say, that I would have to take up that bed for a further FOUR unnecessary hours while I waited for medication, four hours where someone else had to wait in that hateful ‘admissions suite’.
My lovely Nurse Anita, you aren’t even a qualified nurse. You’re a healthcare practitioner which means you’re paid minimum wage, maybe a bit more, maybe not enough to feed your family. You won’t be paid for the extra five hours you worked because you weren’t asked to work them, you stayed because you chose to, because the only thing which is your fault in this sorry tale of mine, is that somehow, by some miracle of humanity, you still CARE.
Anyway, the main thing is that at least our current ‘strong and stable’ government hit their target of technically getting me out of A&E in under four hours.
Well done Jeremy Hunt.
Keep up the good work.