Our Journey in the NHS

Today is apparently World Cancer Day. We have had so much progress in the treatment of cancer, yet it still affects so many people in the world. Every family has been touched by it and to me, it feels like it is all around me at the moment. It pains my heart to hear all the stories of people suffering, having to go through gruelling treatments in the fight to stay alive.

One of these amazing, brave people has been my grandma, and the funny thing is that it all began with a chest infection.

Over the past 10 months, but especially during the last 4, she has been in and out of three hospitals, two clinics and meetings with consultants from pretty much every specialisation there is. And as the appointments increased, it became more difficult, and she became less unable to drive to them. And that’s where I come in, and where our journey started.

I’ve never been a hospital person. I think, before all this, I had only been in several times; when my siblings were born and when my grandma was in with a broken femur. The super clean and sterilised environment freaks me out a little bit and so I avoid it wherever possible. But now I was finding myself staring at waiting room walls almost every week.

It hasn’t been a pleasant journey, but now we are coming out the other end (hopefully!) with a successful operation complete and a grandma recovering and happier than she has been in a long while. And that is largely down to the gold star service delivered by every member of staff we have encountered in our travels.

The nurses have always been jovial and kind to my grandma, even when it’s the end of a long day and we’re the last ones on the list. The receptionists have been friendly, even giving my grandma reassurance on what was about to happen. The consultants have explained as best they could what was going on whenever we saw them.

When we were told the C word, there was the consultant and two nurses present, and when my grandma welled up so did they. The surgeon carrying out the operation described what was going to happen usingĀ a diagram of a human, and drew hair on because ‘it looked like a man, but now it looks a bit more like you.’ We got a file full of information and a number to ring any time for advice or someone to chat to.

When we went for the pre-op appointment, we got a cup of tea while we were waiting to see the specialist nurse. All the staff were completely ready and willing to give my grandma any answers she needed. She’s a bit of a talker but they listened and sympathised.

On the day of the operation, everyone on the admissions ward were welcoming and were constantly making sure my grandma was okay. When she got into the chair to be wheeled to theatre, the nurse covered her in blankets because ‘it was cold in the hallways’. The theatre assistant had been working for just under an hour and told us his pedometer had registered one and a half miles, yet he was joyful and continuously engaged my grandma in conversation.

After the operation, the surgeon (who had carried it out and who was one of the experts in his field) called me to tell me it had gone well and she was doing okay. I was incredibly nervous when I learned she was in ICU, but the nurses there were amazing and updated me on her progress. The next day when I came to visit her, she was in a chair smiling and laughing with all the nurses and looking more peaceful than she had in a long time. No TV, even though it was offered to her, because ‘she liked watching everything that was going on’. A nurse came over and noticed her back was bare so fetched her dressing gown.

Our journey isn’t over yet, and I am sure there will be many more waiting room walls to stare at. But I will say this: it took 3 weeks from diagnosis of cancer to treatment. It has been shorter than that for others who I know. I cannot fault a single aspect of my grandma’s care. Even though they are overstretched (my grandma had to stay in ICU an extra day because there were no beds on the ward) the nurses are never short with you, always looking to see how they can help, very lovely to visitors (because I get that we can be in the way!) and they really, really care about their patients.

I’ve never been a hospital person. And I still don’t really care about going there. But if I needed it, I would be completely happy to go there and, as my grandma says, ‘put my life in their hands’.

Because they’d lovingly take care of it.