Sunday, 28 September 2014

A love letter...

... to the NHS.

My next blog post was going to be about this total freakfest dude on OKC, but then I got to thinking that I'm a bit sick of writing about that kind of shit. I mean, I will, because I find it freaking amusing.

But something caught my eye somewhere in internet land. Some poor American posted the bill for their surgery. And then I got to thinking.

What if I was American. Apart from a most likely atrocious accent and the inability to spell or end a sentence without an upward inflection, what would this have meant for my health?

As a person from a working middle class background with a sick father and not much else going on financially, I had a vague suspicion it wouldn't have been great.

So I decided to do a little research. Below is a list of the procedures with an estimate of the costs, based on what I could find in internet land. I've chosen the lower end of the spectrum for the procedures, but it seems that, depending on the State, it could have been at least twice as much.


Appendectomy  - average $33,000 (could be up to $150,000)
Cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal)  - average $13,500
Laproscopic endometrial ablation x 3 - average $4,500 each (total $13,500)
Abortion with general anaesthetic - average $1,200
Removal of pre cancerous mole under local anaesthetic - average $300
Three years of orthodonistry resulting in a gleaming, straight smile - around $5,000
Cost of approx five years mixed therapy - let's estimate at $100/session and I'm going to say around 50 sessions on the NHS over my lifetime, although it could well be more - $5,000
Sinus ablationl - estimate $3,000

TOTAL COST: $74,500.

I wouldn't have insurance, assuming I live like I do over here. My work doesn't provide anything like any kind of health benefits and, if I was a self employed writer over there, I doubt it would either.

Most of these were after I turned 19, which is after my dad had to retire through ill health. Most occurred after he died. He had no life insurance. He could not get health insurance in this country, due to his condition. He most likely wouldn't have been able to get it over there.

I would have had no orthodontistry and my mouth would right now look like the inside of some rotting graveyard from hell. I would have had no therapy and, to be honest, I actually don't know what that would mean for me.

I would have skipped the sinus op and possibly the mole removal (they said a 30% chance of cancer, so, y'know, it would have been a gamble).

I could not have skipped the appendectomy, abortion or gall bladder removal. These were not choices (for me. I mean, one of them obviously was a choice but it was the right choice, but anyway, that's a whole other issue). If I had left two of them I would have died in agony (my gall bladder was dead and rotting inside me they discovered on removal) and, well, I'm not going to talk about the other one here.

As it stands, I don't live in America. Or the 'land of the free' as it's inexplicably known. I live in England. The land of the mildly cantankerous. And all of this was funded by a system I pay into. All of this and all of the GP appointments, scans, tests and further appointments over the years was funded by a system that I grew up with. I have never known any different. I have never known what it's like to live in a society that doesn't look after each other, that will bill someone for life saving surgery, that will throw the elderly out if they don't have the money.

In this country, we do not have to weigh up the cost of life saving surgery against the cost of buying food and paying rent. In this country, we do not get landed with a massive bill when we're at our most vulnerable. In this country, we don't know we're fricking born.

This last operation was an example of the beauty of the NHS when it works as it should. I was seen by a consultant who was interested, helpful and kind. He put me on his list. Within three months he operated on me. He did what he said he would and he did stuff that could potentially save me a lot of pain in the future. Throughout the operation I was treated with courtesy, respect, kindness and humour by a fantastic team of people. I was swabbed three times for MRSA in the weeks leading up to surgery and had two blood screens. I had a pre operative nurse explain everything to me and a post operative nurse explain everything to me. I was given painkillers, dressings and instructions when I left. I have a follow up appointment in six weeks.

They were so good to me I'm writing them a thank you card.

We are so lucky. I am so lucky. And I am so very very grateful to the NHS. If I believed in anything, I'd pray so hard it lasts, because the alternative is scary as hell.

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