Angels In White Coats

NHSangelsChanges to the NHS are very topical at the moment and, sure, there’s much that needs to change.  If you were to be with me at 11.20am on Wednesday this week, you’d be in theatre watching the hands of an angel (and I’ve told her she has them, many times!), expertly guiding a needle between my vertebrae without touching my spinal cord, conducting a therapeutic lumbar puncture by draining off some cerebral spinal fluid.  I’ve been through this procedure so many times, they consider me one of the family.  Liz says she doesn’t like doing it because she knows me now.  In the Radiology Dept patients pass through never to be seen again and relationships are usually at arm’s length.

Such is the trust between the neurologist, radiologist and I that I don’t attend clinics anymore.  Yes, the occasional MRI brain scan to make sure nothing untoward’s happening but, apart from that, I just ring up when I need a ‘brain drain’, a bit like ordering a pizza.  Clinic appointments are as rare as hens’ teeth so why waste one when I’m the only person who can tell if my head’s about to explode?

At a clinic appointment in the early days I found the neurologist, Mark,  holding a piece of paper and laughing, seemingly hysterically.  Quizzically, I asked the source of his mirth.  Apparently, the occupants of the Ivory Tower recognised his department had been pushed to breaking point and needed more staff.  Here’s the point.  The letter proudly announced the appointment of ANOTHER MANAGER to tell him what was needed.  I won’t relate the reply but it roughly translates into acceptable parlance as: “Why don’t they just give me a doctor”?

The staff on the ground do a brilliant job with what’s available, mostly.  I’m qualified to comment having experienced both sides of the coin.  Surgical and follow-up incompetence nearly cost me my life, ending with me pinned out with pipes, tubes and drips until I resembled a laboratory rat.  Medical and surgical competence had saved me.  Would that it hadn’t been necessary but skilled hands were there, again, when my light had dimmed to but a flicker.  A gangrenous abdomen and necrotic bowel isn’t the best way to establish best practice though, believe me.

All things are relative and this I truly know.  Every day I’m deeply grateful for the condition I do have – benign intracranial Intracranial hypertension
hypertension, also known as pseudo tumour cerebri – and therein lies the clue.  I’m blessed to have it.  Why?  Because when another wingless angel, a consultant endocrinologist, sent me for a diagnostic brain scan, I was told only two conditions produce the symptoms I had – the other is a brain tumour.  See what I mean?  Mine is a rare but manageable condition; the other option would have seen me off years ago.

I’m lucky on many fronts but especially because my Angel-In-A-White- Coat spotted the possibility of this rare condition.  I’m only the second case my GP has ever seen and he retires at the end of April; the first case was when he was training.  It’s been interesting to be part of the only research being carried out in the world for BIH for the last six years.  As yet, nobody has discovered what triggers it.

Know what?  It seems I just don’t do ‘normal’ in any sense of the word but my life has been touched by very many angels in many guises and in many places, several of them in the NHS.  Thank you to every one of you.  How does it feel to have made such a difference to so many?

Angels in human form are all around.  Have you noticed yours and said a quick ‘thank you’?