The more observant amongst you may have noticed that it is a couple of weeks since I have posted anything – there is a reason….
The morning of Tuesday 20 January was a cold one, it had taken an age to scrape the frost off the car and I had wrapped up warm with several layers.
I pressed the button on the pelican crossing opposite work at around 7:55 and waited for the lights to change, as the pedestrian phase started I looked up the road, there was a car a little way away to my right and the traffic from the left had gone from barely moving to stationary, although I noticed someone getting into the cab of a lorry in front of me. A couple of seconds into the pedestrian ‘phase’ I started crossing….the next thing I was aware of was an NHS employee called Neil wearing a dayglo police jacket bought from EBay getting me into the recovery position and constantly talking to me – I’d been hit by a car whose driver who had failed to stop at the red light, I’d hit the windscreen with my head and had ‘bounced’ to the side of the road landing on my heavily padded shoulder.
I began to be aware of my body, my knees were hurting – that must have been the first contact, my head was bleeding – not profusely though. More importantly, I was conscious and able to hurl a coherent, expletive laden, tirade towards the driver; and as I lay on my back on the freezing road my shoulders and neck were very sore and I was worried about my knees, but on the positive side I could feel and move my toes and fingers, maybe, just maybe this wouldn’t be a disaster
The ambulance seemed to take an age to arrive in the rush hour traffic, but once there, the paramedics carefully got me under cover, and after realising that I wasn’t in any immediate danger stabilised me before taking me to Accident and Emergency – I had hoped it would be to Lewisham – my local hospital – which local campaigns had saved from Jeremy Hunt’s desire to take out its heart by the closure of maternity and A&E.
It was towards King’s College Hospital in the morning rush hour that the blue flashing lights headed – the neck pain meant I was an emergency neurological patient and was going to one of the best centres in the country. I was code name ‘Alpha Red’, which I rather liked.
Quickly and methodically the team in A&E cut off my clothes and painstakingly, carefully and gently probed every bit of my body to work out what might be injured so that I could be scanned and x-rayed. This took several hours but confirmed a small crack in a vertebra in my neck, plus some heavy bruising to my shoulders. My neck was encased in a brace to try to stop any more movement.
My ‘home’ for the next 9 days was Kinnier-Wilson ward, named after a former Professor of Neurology at the teaching hospital. The doctors under Nick Thomas were incredibly thorough in planning the next move – they wanted to make sure whether the break was stable, it wasn’t, and so with an operation needed scanned me for the best way to repair the damage with a plate.
I cannot express enough gratitude to those who have repaired me, nursed me and cared for me – they were universally fantastic a credit to themselves and their hospital. A few deserve special mentions – Ara, who on my days in greatest pain proactively checked on whether I needed more pain relief and that, when given, it was working; Steph who stayed late to check that the operation had been a success when I came up from theatre after the end of her shift; Jiss who helped me to get mobile on day 2, showering me and sharing my joy of full, if painful, limb movement; Fathira, who had had a similar operation, reassured me about what I should expect, made sure that I had enough to eat after the operation, despite the kitchen being closed and shared my elation in the success of the operation; and Jeremy (from Murray Falconer Ward, where I spent my final night at King’s) who was there when I needed something rather unpleasant to be administered when I was struggling with the side-effects of one of the pain-killers but did it with so much care and then kept checking on me.
I paid much more attention to Labour’s new health strategy which was announced whilst I was in King’s, it promised an end to privatisation and fragmentation in the health service, along with a better integration of health and care. I am no health expert, but It seems the right sort of approach for the future.
The fantastic service I received from King’s was provided free at the point of use and almost entirely by directly employed NHS staff – it is how it should be. The bits like the cleaning and television service that were provided by the private sector, failed miserably and seemed horribly out of kilter with the ethos of public service that imbued the rest of the King’s service – a cleaner knocked over a urine bottle waiting to be moved on my beside table but would only clean the drips in the floor – the flooded table was ‘the nurses’ job’. The legacy of the likes of Aneurin Bevin and, more locally, Alfred Salter, have to be protected, patient care will always come second to the shareholders in privatisation.
The politicians who want to stop or considerably reduce immigration should reflect on the make-up of staff in inner London hospitals. Of those who looked after me and who went out of their way for me, no more than a handful would have been able to tick the ‘White British’ ‘box’ in a census. Our National Health Service depends on them, and is a better place for it.
I am back home but still rather battered and bruised but, given what happened, consider myself very lucky indeed. Once the car hit me on the crossing many of the outcomes would have been terrible – death, permanent physical disability or brain damage. While I am still in pain, I know that I will get better; my current reduced mobility is frustrating but I know that it will improve and, perhaps, in a couple of months or so I will be putting back on my running shoes and heading towards Blackheath. It will be a frustrating few months and much of the rest of the year will be spent just recovering lost fitness – but at 8:00 am on Tuesday 20 January I would have been overjoyed with this outcome and I still am.