Harriet Walker: I was broken – the NHS put me back together

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

If you think the Coalition is being inflexible over public-sector pensions, that's nothing compared with the rigidity of the ankle boot that broke my left leg in three places last week. I'd never spent time in hospital beyond visiting hours before, so I had no idea what to expect. But I'm writing this from home, encased thigh-high in fibreglass, so something must have gone right.

In fact, I was impressed, relieved and reduced to tears at times by the sturdy resilience of the NHS, the flexibility and pragmatism of which has something to teach the Coalition and bootmakers alike.

In all, I met about 12 different doctors during my five-day stay, talking to each of them once; there was no pater figure who oversaw my case from crack to crutches. I hadn't a clue what was going to happen next, but they did. Bewildering and frustrating as it was, I realise now that the system doesn't have time for the personal care one might expect – this comes from the nurses and healthcare assistants rather than from on high. You just have to trust the experts.

There were delays (I waited two days for an operation) and mistakes (A&E missed one of the fractures), but here I am, with an impressive seven-inch rod in my calf to hold everything together forever.

People complain about sloppiness in healthcare. I can only say thank God I don't live in America. It doesn't seem fair to examine the NHS with the usual microscope of customer satisfaction, because it isn't something you pick out like a decorative cushion. It's something you don't think about until you need it. And when you need it, you really need it.

There were dark moments: the sociopathic nurse who left me drugged and crying in the dark, placed my handbag on my chest and told me to phone my mum; that same Nightingale told my neighbour she was sick of her and would rather be "down the pub". But that was one person – and she was outnumbered by abusive patients.

Hospitals are not very nice places; any sense of comfort comes from bittersweet poignancy and selflessness. I wouldn't choose to spend time in one, but I'm grateful some people do. We're all as sick of waiting lists and bureaucracy as I was of seeing Andrew Lansley's face on my pay-per-view television every day. But the NHS has become so political a topic that we've forgotten the human brilliance of it. I was broken and now I am fixed. Yes, it costs a lot of money but it also requires something that is free: trust.

Get real about the effect of ads

It's been a turbulent week in ad-land, with Benetton removing the Pope from its campaign and the banning of two campaigns – aftershave brand Lynx, fronted by a page 3 girl in various hyper-sexualised scenarios; and fashion label Miu Miu, which had teen actress Hailee Steinfeld sitting contemplatively on railway tracks.

One was offensive, the other promoted suicide, the ruling said. But really, which is more harmful? Miu Miu's imagery is a portrait, and a thoughtful one at that. There is nothing violent or foreboding about it; Steinfeld has all her clothes on.

Lynx should have been stopped long ago; castigating Miu Miu is a case of shutting the stable door long after the clothes-horse has bolted.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power