I am a very privileged person. Obviously, I am incredibly beautiful, funny and clever… but I am not talking about that. I am talking about the privilege I hold that has allowed me to access the medical care I have needed for the past six years: the privilege of having supportive parents and a comfortable home and the ability to focus singularly on recovery without financial worries. If I didn’t have access to the NHS, I wouldn’t be in university and living independently from my parents; I might not even be here at all. This does not mean that all of my experiences with medical care have been positive, however. I have been unlucky enough to get very familiar with an array of hospitals and appointments and doctors. Some experiences have been good, some competent, some devastating.
This is my favourite hospital story. I was booked in for a scan to look at the blood vessels in my brain. It was a scary day; I was still in the process of eliminating the really bad stuff from my possible diagnoses list and the word tumour was being thrown about far too much for my liking. I sat in the waiting room as I checked for the fifteenth time that I had remembered to take out my nose ring and wasn’t going to get it ripped out by the magnetic force of the scan, forcing me to live the rest of my life without a nose. When I was called in,the nurse told me that she would be injecting me with a radioactive dye to prep me for the scan. She warned me that a lot of people felt like they were weeing themselves after this happened, as the dye was warm and spread through your lower body slowly. Oh how I laughed. After nineteen years on this planet I was pretty sure I knew what weeing myself felt like. I slid into the weird little pod thing and lay very still,waiting for it to be over. Then, I wet myself. I press the button to turn the microphone on. “I’VE WET MYSELF,” I announced. I had not wet myself – it really does feel like pee: she wasn’t lying. The nurse and I had a little chuckle together,and then I went home and ate some falafel.
Another nice thing that happens to me whenever I have to go to hospital is that I get a lot of attention. It’s disconcerting for your loved ones to see you lying in a hospital bed looking gross and tired and poorly, so you normally get lots of special treatment. My mum showed me her unconditional love and support by making a three-hour round trip to come visit me every day that I was an inpatient, and by spending a small fortune on M&S snacks so I didn’t have to eat any crap hospital food. She was a rock star. When I was taken to A&E, tired, dizzy and out of it, my boyfriend sat me on the stairs and put my shoes on for me before I even registered that I was leaving the house. One of my close friends familiarised herself with my treatment plan and side effects to the point where she’d text me every 5 minutes for updates on my physical and mental well-being. There is something quite comforting in the knowledge that during the difficult times in your life the people who care about you will force their love upon you to the point where you have to be like: “alright, take a break you’re being a bit weird now.”
My least favourite hospital stories involve more crying, less laughing, and no falafel at all. I don’t like talking about them or thinking about them. These experiences outweigh the positive ones and mean that I now cannot walk into a doctor’s surgery or answer an NHS appointment text without experiencing some Heavy Anxiety. Again, I am grateful that I have access to these services at all, and some medical professionals are absolutely brilliant. I’ve had nurses seek out soy milk for my annoying dietary requests, nurses who remember what book I was reading well enough to ask me questions the next morning, and nurses who are so efficient at checking your vitals at five in the morning that they don’t even wake you up. Thank you so much to these people!
And to the bad doctors; I wish you countless toe-stubbings, pocket pen explosions and burnt milk coffees. You have instilled in me a feeling of self-doubt that has permeated my entire being. I hope you learn how to speak to young women without making them feel silly and dramatic and like they arewasting your time. And I hope the next client with a difficult case you see is treated with more compassion and sympathy than I was.
You can read the previous installment of Maddy’s column here.