My Mum and I were out for lunch. It was my first proper day out with her since having my 12 week old baby Louis. As we sipped on a Kir, she showed me the headline in The Daily Mail which was about the dangers of Out of Hours Care (or lack of it) during childbirth in the NHS and she pointed out that I had a story. I did indeed have a story. I was stuck in the assessment room at UCLH for 2 and a half hours with no pain relief apart from paracetamol. Not even gas and air. I was contracting pretty much back to back and not only was I in agony but I was petrified after a very tricky labour first time round. To me that situation was wrong and I still passionately believe that no woman should be left in agony and fear during childbirth. This was indeed a story. What I now need to point out though is that it was only the first chapter.
Practically within minutes of my mainly negative article being published, the comments started pouring in and I don’t need to tell you that in the comments section of the Daily Mail Online there lurk some particularly unsavoury characters. But in the same way that there is a little truth in every joke, it struck me that there is a little truth in every trolling. Well there certainly was in this case.
Looking back at my article as I have done so many times (in embarrassment and regret) since it has been published, I realise that I felt like I had some kind of sense of entitlement as I lay shouting in that hospital. Yes I was in agony. Yes I was scared. But what about the emergencies that were being dealt with whilst this was happening? The midwives weren’t enjoying seeing me in pain. They were just doing their best in the circumstances. I forgot how hard they were working, how exhausted and stretched they were and I put my suffering first. I was selfish.
It made me look at the bigger picture too. When we feel something is wrong about the NHS what’s the first thing we should do? Go shouting to the press? Try and get compensation from one of those ghastly claims companies or should we be proactive? The answer is of course yes. We must be proactive.
I’m forever reading about what’s wrong with the NHS in the papers, hearing politicians foretelling its collapse and I added to the cacophony by publishing a negative aspect of my own experience. Focusing on the negative perpetuates the negative, fuelling the fires of the story that the NHS is broken and failing us all when in fact it’s not.
If I were to write the whole story about my experience at University College London Hospital I’d talk about the anesthetist who held my hand during my caesarean because I was so scared, the paediatrician who answered my email on a Saturday night to reassure me, the midwife who supported me throughout my whole pregnancy and much of the birth, the neonatal specialist nurse who took blood from my one day old son’s tiny fragile veins, barely thicker than a line of pen, with such tender care and skill. The people who were there when they were really needed and who went above and beyond the call of duty for me and my baby.
I have learnt so many lessons from writing that article. Stop looking for the big story and see the whole picture. Ask yourself, what was your experience of the NHS? Yes you might have waited 4 hours to be seen in casualty, yes the ward might have been a bit shabby, but how many emergency ambulances did you hear arrive in that time? How many Drs and Nurses did all that they could to make you better?
The NHS is so valuable. We all need to treasure it and be grateful for everything that it does with less funding than it needs. I will forever regret writing that article and I have learnt so much from it. If we take one little chapter from a much larger story we continue to perpetuate the myth that the NHS is failing. It is not. It is doing the best that it can and that’s all that any of us can ask.