Don’t believe everything you read about the NHS – it’s like a fun hotel!

Don’t believe everything you read about the NHS – it’s like a fun hotel!

Oct 27
Don’t believe everything you read about the NHS – it’s like a fun hotel!


Like most people, I have a fear of hospitals. They spell MRSA, Clostridium Difficile, limbs wrongly removed and exhausted, sub-qualified Congolese nurses misreading decimal points and giving people overdoses. So when my son was injured and a visit to A&E led to a two night stay, I envisioned us lying in a corridor listening to a dehydrated old lady scream herself hoarse for a glass of water. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My nine-year-old son, Lucas’s injury happened when he was lying starfish on a bouncy castle. Caitlin, 10, a longtime admirer, seized upon the opportunity to shout ‘Cowabunga Lukey Man!’ slamming her pelvis onto his.
The next morning Lucas was squealing: “She’s BROKEN my BODY!”
Our boy has a flair for the dramatic, so we weren’t worried. But at prize giving that afternoon a fellow mother commented on his pale and hobbling demeanour, giving me the glare concerned mothers give to neglectful mothers. So there we were in A&E on a sunny day reading about celebrity romantic hideaways for three hours.
Once seen, Horatio the male nurse looked grave. “He’s not weight bearing. We can’t send him home without an X-ray.”

Sensing an evening sans Clash of Clans, Lucas attempted to hop off the table and moonwalk to the door, but Horatio was unmoved.

But there we were in a children’s waiting room watching 101 Dalmations.

Abby, the unfeasibly tall paediatrician appeared.
“OK Lucas,” he said in a strong Gujarati accent “Walk towards me”

“I can’t. It hurts,” said Lucas.

“Yes you can. Come on man, walk.”

Lucas fell to the floor.

Satisfied, Abby picked him up and carried him to the bed. “OK, good, you’re not faking,” he said to Lucas. To me, he said: “I can’t let him go until we have a diagnosis, you see, we have to rule out certain… possibilities.”
I went white. Leukemia. Pertheys Disease. Muscular dystrophy. Oh God, oh God…

“Its OK. We just need to run some checks but he will need to stay in overnight.”

Lucas was howling now. “Will I die mum?”

“Probably,” said Abby, “But at least mum will be there to cover your face with a sheet.”

We both gawped at Abby, speechless, and then all three of us started to laugh. A breath of fresh air compared to the ‘appropriate for children’, patronising banter Lucas had to stomach daily at school.

To cheer him up, Abby engaged Lucas in a bout of arm wrestling until the porter, Jorge, from Valencia arrived. Jorge did wheelies with Lucas’s wheelchair all the way to X-Ray.

So far, this NHS hospital didn’t match up to the scandalous doss houses I read about in the papers. The corridors were devoid of marooned bodies moaning for a bed. The staff were kind and conscientious. The floors spotless. Sure, the strip lighting did nothing for one’s complexion but I wasn’t there to pull.

The children’s ward. Secure. Busy, smiley nurses in squeaky shoes. Paper mobiles of whales and penguins, thank you cards from grateful cured kids, Paddington bear stickers and a big white board with smiley faces next to the names of every patient.

Louise from Trinidad looked after us our first night. Her eyes sparkled and her smile was wide despite her long, long shift. All night she cared for Lucas as if he were her own. Hot buttered toast, an extra blanket for his feet, a teddy to cuddle.

Lucas slept holding my hand while I counted the jungle animals on the curtains until dawn when I slipped into REM.

At 7am, Louise woke me to tell me that Lucas’s blood tests showed nothing ‘sinister’ – the NHS’s codename for cancer. I wept in her arms and when she went home to sleep I missed her. Who would look after us now? And in came smiley Alice with the Wendy Craig haircut who gave Lucas breakfast. Ahmed, a little Syrian boy with a broken arm took a shine to Lucas and taught him how to stuff coco pops up his nose. Then they had a competition to see who could blow their nasal cereal the furthest. Alice came over with a football magazine.

“Mum, its alright here isn’t it,” said Lucas. “Like a fun hotel”

With NHS bashing headlines in my head, I kept looking for evidence of negligence or filth or deprivation. The only thing I found was a hair in the visitors shower. No where near as hairy as ours.

As the MRI machine was closed we had to spend a second night. After two nights of lying awake falling between two plastic chairs, the animals on the curtains came to life. The hallucinations were welcome and the whole experience did indeed feel like a fun hotel.

When it was time for the MRI, the nurses showed Lucas a picture book that explained the whole process. Lucas began quizzing the operator. Why does it look like a donut? What does that button do? Will it be able to find the safety pin my sister made me eat when I was a baby. The Liverpudlian machine operator answered every question with a throaty chuckle.

An hour after the MRI, Andy and Abby came in, all smiles. “Fluid from the impact that’s all we found, so you are free to go”

“Ohhhh,” said Lucas, “but its macaroni cheese tonight and Ahmed and I are having a thumb war later.”

As we left, we kissed everybody goodbye like old friends.
“Shall I post a review on Trip Advisor?” Lucas asked Sue the head nurse.

“I don’t think we’re on Trip Advisor,” said Sue. “You could write a letter to the Daily Mail, though.”

So we did. But it wasn’t published.

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