Making progress . . . one step at a time

Believe me, there’s almost nothing more annoying than an unscratchable itch beneath a plaster cast. Finally, however, my cast was removed during an outpatient appointment yesterday at the ‘Alex’.

I had an appointment for 10:30 and, based on my previous two appointments, I expected to have to wait for at least an hour beyond my appointment time before I would be seen.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, after having just arrived to the clinic, and making myself comfortable, that I was called to the ‘plaster room’ to have my cast (the red one) removed.

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That took about five minutes or so. Given that the cast was very hard (made, I was told, from bandages infused with a type of fiber glass that sets on exposure to the air), the nurse had to use a small circular saw to cut through it.

Then I was sent to the X-ray unit in the fracture clinic. I didn’t have to wait very long there either. But I did get into conversation with a couple a little older than myself. The wife had broken her arm, and was also waiting for an X-ray after me. They asked me what I had done to myself, and before long, after discovering I was retired, they asked me what I used to do before retirement. I mentioned that I’d worked at the International Rice Research Institute. ‘Golden rice?’ asked the husband, and they both went on to decry the irresponsible campaign (their words) against GMOs that denied life-saving technologies like Golden Rice to millions of people (many of them children) around the world. I have to say it was most heartening to hear these perspectives from complete strangers.

Anyway, after a couple of X-rays had been taken, I was wheeled back to the reception waiting area to see one of the surgeons. Again I didn’t have to wait more than about five minutes before joining one or two other patients waiting outside the actual consultation rooms. I was with the surgeon less than 10 minutes. He showed me the latest X-ray images, told me that everything was healing as it should be, and that I would be fitted with a ‘boot’, and have to attend physiotherapy sessions. I don’t have to return to see the surgeon for another six weeks, when he expects to give me the all-clear.

Wheeled around the corner again, one of the staff from the plaster room fitted a ‘boot’—what a marvellous invention—and then I had to wait for someone from the Physiotherapy Unit to come and see me. That was my longest wait, maybe 20 minutes. Anyway, the young woman brought me a pair of crutches, had me test them out and adjusted them to my height. Then she wheeled me over to the Physiotherapy Unit so I could quickly practice climbing and descending stairs. Tricky!

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And before I knew it, I was ready to go home. I called the taxi company, a driver arrived after about 15 minutes, and I was home before 12:15. Feeling very positive and optimistic.

I’m now allowed, encouraged even, to walk about and begin (slowly) to put weight on my damaged leg. In fact the surgeon told me that adding weight to the leg would encourage healing, surprising as it may seem. Anyway, I still have my walking frame as well as crutches, but the surgeon has told me that after about three weeks, I’m to give up walking with any support at all. Let’s see.

I’m also now allowed to shower, and that’s a treat to be enjoyed later today once I’ve mastered climbing and descending the stairs using crutches.

It was bliss having the cast removed. A good scratch, but even more so the chance to bathe my foot and leg that has been encased for the past six weeks. A nice foot massage in warm water, followed by a generous application of cocoa butter cream, and my foot began to feel almost normal.

I’ve been very pleased with my treatment under the National Health Service (NHS), and it has not cost me a penny. I think of the hours of treatment from the moment the first ambulance arrived on the scene on 8 January, the four days spent in hospital, the outpatient appointments, the drugs administered, the equipment loaned to me (Zimmer frame, crutches, and a frame around the toilet for support), and last but not least, the boot that I’m now wearing. The boots, for example, don’t come cheap and I have no idea if they are recycled once I have finished with mine in six weeks’ time (hopefully).

Having lived in a country like the Philippines where there is limited socialized medicine, and where families can very quickly run up catastrophic medical bills, it makes me appreciate even more the value of the NHS in the UK. No wonder it is such a hot potato and contentious political challenge (which this current Conservative government does not appear to be facing professionally nor astutely).

A reply from my Member of Parliament . . .

When I broke my leg at the beginning of January, I spent four days in the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, one of three hospitals managed by the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. The ‘Alex’ has not been out of the news for many months—for all the wrong reasons. Now I know there’s a lot in the media these days about the shortcomings of the NHS. One ‘failing’ hospital after another is brought into ‘special measures‘ (the situation with the Alex), the NHS is almost broke, the junior doctors are on strike. Also, there is a perception that this Conservative government aims to privatize our cherished NHS, step-by-step. In my earlier post I mentioned that the A&E department at the Alex had recently lost several of its consultants, and that the maternity unit had been closed (supposedly only a temporary measure) and its services transferred to Worcester.

JavidHowever, the care I received during my brief stay was second-to-none. I tweeted about that, but also felt compelled to write to my Member of Parliament (for the Bromsgrove constituency), the Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid (right), who sits in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. After all, positive outcomes need to be highlighted just as much as the negative (of which we hear all too frequently).

So I penned the following letter on 14 January, and sent it to him through his House of Commons web site:

Dear Mr Javid,
I have unfortunately had to avail of local NHS services in recent days, having slipped on black ice outside my home last Friday and severely dislocating and fracturing my right ankle.

I was rushed to the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, after a remarkably rapid response from the ambulance service, and spent three nights there following surgery on Saturday night.

At a time when the NHS is under ‘assault’ from all quarters, including, I’m afraid to say, the Government of which you are a member, as well as the continual bad press that the ‘Alex’ seems to attract, I believe it’s opportune to celebrate what is great and worthy about the NHS and those dedicated doctors, nurses and support staff who are its backbone.

From the moment of my arrival in A&E, admission and stay on Ward 17 (Trauma and Orthopaedic), and visit to theatre, I have nothing but the highest praise for all the staff, who looked after me with dedication and compassion, and a good degree of good humour. Although their morale has recently taken somewhat of a battering, this did not affect their sense of professional pride in offering the best care possible.

And lying there on the ward, another thing struck me. At least 50% of the staff, possibly more, were immigrants, both EU and non-EU, and of all faiths. Indeed, I believe that the particular speciality where I was being cared for would not be able to operate were it not for the support of our immigrant friends and colleagues.

Mr Farage and his moronic UKIP followers, and those on the right of your party, have been permitted to hijack the immigration (and EU) debate with the result that those from outside the UK who come here to make our country a better place, are demonised. Surely as the son of immigrant parents this is a perspective you should be fighting tooth and nail to reverse.

I spent much of my career working overseas with scientists and support staff from all around the world. I celebrate this cultural, ethnic and religious diversity. I deplore deeply that our society, famed for its broad mindedness and tolerance is being dragged in a direction that undermines these core values.

I deplore that this Conservative government does not appear to have the stomach to take on the immigration bigots.

Yours sincerely,
Michael Jackson

And there I left it. Last weekend, Mr. Javid organized a job fair in Bromsgrove and there was a lot of publicity in the local press. It was that which reminded me I’d not received any reply from my MP. I thought (incorrectly, as it turned out) that he and his staff had chosen to ignore my comments.

However, this envelope dropped through my mailbox yesterday afternoon.

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If you click on the image below you can read the full reply from Mr. Javid. It’s a courteous and explanatory letter, and (to a certain extent) agrees with the points I raised. He does duck the immigration issue since I guess he can’t deviate from the government line.

Javid letter

Nevertheless, I am pleased to see that someone in his office did take time to address the issues I raised. While my politics (such as they are) do not align with this Conservative administration, I do acknowledge that Sajid Javid has a high and prominent profile in the constituency, and appears to be a good constituency MP. Which is saying something considering the ministerial responsibilities that he has to balance as well.