NHS Leukaemia survivor story

The NHS saved my life – I want my story to highlight its successes

Note; This post was written in July 2018

So 70 years ago the NHS was born, 70 years is a massive achievement and it has saved the lives of thousands of people since its birth, that is something no one can deny and doesn’t seem to get the same publicity as the negatives.  The NHS provides many things that most people take for granted and don’t even realise they would have to pay for if the NHS didn’t exist.  We have become so used to it being there that we’ve forgotten how our ancestors suffered before its birth.

Personally I have benefited significantly from our NHS with the one thing I value the most, my life!

In those early days back in 1948 it must have been such a welcome thing to those families who in the past hadn’t been able to afford medicines or to call a Doctor.

It’s easy to get sucked into focusing on all of the negatives and the things aren’t working particularly well. Especially as the NHS is regularly used as a political pawn and we seem to only hear stories of its failures rather than successes.  There are many areas that need improvement and I can fully understand where some people’s frustrations come from.  I have had some poor experiences too but when my life was on the line I cannot fault it so perhaps we need to take a step back and get some perspective?  I am not naive enough to think that there aren’t errors and those who can’t agree with me but equally I want to share what happened to me and my family in thanks.  After all it is important to celebrate the lives saved and the hard working staff who are responsible for much of it.

#NHS70 birthday NHS AML Leukaemia

Being diagnosed with one of the most deadly forms of blood cancer with a 40% survival rate and only 15% of people surviving beyond 5 years does make you see things differently and certainly puts things into perspective. I was really taken back and humbled recently by a comment made by a friend of mine who sadly lost her beautiful daughter, Emily, to blood cancer.  It is so powerful and should be heard because it is brave, true and an inspiration to other families and those working tirelessly in the NHS, often without thanks, trying to save every since person’s life.  Here are Donna’s words;

‘I wish the NHS a very happy birthday and take this opportunity to thank the NHS for saving my life and giving me the strength to carry on.  Not because I have an illness or condition but because I go to sleep every night safe in the knowledge that they did everything they could to save my daughter Emily’s life.  She didn’t die because they failed her.  I got 410 extra days with her because they succeeded.’ Donna Dunn

Back in April 2015 I went to my Doctors surgery as I’d been feeling unwell and thought I had some sort of infection.  After having a blood test I was rushed into hospital later that day due to ‘deranged bloods’ which turned out to be Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, an extremely aggressive, rapidly fatal form of blood cancer.  The NHS and those who work in it, from my local doctor’s surgery where I went feeling unwell, through to the medical team who were waiting for me when I arrived at the hospital later that same night are without doubt life savers and I am proof.  When the pathologist had analysed my bloods in the lab and noticed that my white blood count was out of range they escalated my case to the on call Haematologist immediately knowing how urgently I needed treatment.

Until you have been though a situation like this and experienced how well the systems, protocols and plans kick in you don’t fully appreciate how brilliant the NHS and its workforce really are.  I’ve always been thankful to the NHS, one reason being that my mother has been through and survived two separate breast cancer diagnosis.

Leukaemia is a complicated disease so I have had experience of many different departments and NHS employees.  I lapsed into sepsis caused by the Leukaemia several times and every time the nurses and Doctors were on top of it quickly and efficiently.  At no point during my treatment did I feel let down, I was treated sensitively and with respect.  I had complete trust in my medical team who were always accessible and happy to listen to my questions and concerns.  My family were also treated the same, at times my life was in danger so they did need reassurance.  The auxiliary staff were fantastic, nothing was too much trouble, they were happy to do whatever they could to make me comfortable and when I was unable to take care of my toilet needs they really were very considerate.

Other members of my family have also had first-hand experience of how brilliant the NHS is.  While I was in hospital on my third cycle of chemotherapy my Dad was very suddenly taken ill and when my Mum dialled 999 a first responder and an ambulance arrived quickly.  They assessed my Dad quickly at home, using their skills and knowledge to diagnose what looked like a heart attack as an aneurysm. He was rushed to one hospital for an emergency scan to see the extent of it, they electronically sent it through to another hospital who assembled a team ready to operate the minute he arrived. We were told he’d had a 20% chance of survival.  Thanks to the team of NHS workers on duty that day, from the 999 operator to the skilled surgical team who repaired the 12.5cm aneurysm his life was saved too.  All of this happened on a Sunday afternoon in a rural area.

I feel sorry when I read comments from fellow Leukaemia patients, who don’t live in the UK, concerned about the costs of their life saving treatment.  They are having to make life limiting compromises because of the huge costs, this is something we never have to face.  I am not sure that some consider this aspect when they are complaining, if they had to pay thousands, which often it would be, I wonder if they would choose to carry on with the NHS or not.  While I was struggling through my gruelling treatment one thing I didn’t have to worry about was having to selling my home to save my life.  Not once did the massive cost of my months in hospital and expensive treatment cross my mind, thanks to our NHS.

There are many things the public could do to ease things and save money which could then be used elsewhere such as wasted 999 calls and missed appointments which only adds to waiting times and lists, I have seen this first hand through working in the NHS myself.  There are many unnecessary pressures on the NHS caused by the public generally that could be avoided but these don’t get reported as much and the blame put elsewhere.

So Happy 70th Birthday NHS, I for one hope you are still here saving and improving lives for the next 70 years!

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