For a while now the NHS has been at the centre of some pretty intense criticism and I have always thought it was crazy that people would criticise the people who care for us in our time of need. Yes, they may take a while to care for us or get us seen by doctors but with more budget cuts than sliced bread and staff working a ridiculous amount of over time I was not one to begin complaining. However, this past month I experienced some of the frustrations I have been reading about and I now know why so many are becoming frustrated with the NHS.
This past month I’ve been ill quite a lot, which is unusual for me. I suffer from asthma and at first, I just thought with the weather changing my asthma was playing up and I was just tight chested and had a bit of a cold. This is what my GP told me at my first appointment this past month.
Around two weeks later and I was still ill and I just couldn’t seem to shift the feeling of being unwell and it was art this point when I knew this was not just a ‘common cold’ as I had been told by my GP. I’d rang in sick multiple times to work because I had the worst migraines, something I never usually suffer from and I was physically being sick and I just had no energy at all to get out of bed and I’d never felt so awful.
Just short of two weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon, I went to my local walk in clinic and sat there for almost 4 hours because of how ill I was and I knew there was more going on within me than just a common cold. When I was finally seen, I was told that I was exhausted, doing too much and that I just needed to relax more and to take paracetamol for the migraines. You can imagine the frustration inside of me after sitting there for nearly 4 hours to be told to just “relax and take paracetamol”. Everyone knows there own bodies and we as humans just know when something isn’t right. I also explained to the doctor that I genuinely don’t have time to relax, 7 days a week I am doing something whether I’m in university, on placement or working at my part time job, whilst I knew I needed to make more time for myself, I couldn’t just press pause on any of those three things!
I drove home feeling exhausted and deflated and unfortunately I wasn’t the only thing deflated.. I had a flat tyre and had to get my dad to come and rescue me – really not my week or month!!
After ringing in sick to work over that same weekend and feeling worse than ever, Monday morning came around and my saviour of a mother managed to get me an early morning appointment at my doctors but this time with a different GP than last. Now, this was my third visit to see a doctor within nearly 3 weeks and I went very apprehensively thinking I was wasting my time and that I would be told the same thing again but still I went. Walking into the doctors office after my name was called, I felt scared, It sounds silly, but I genuinely felt scared. Scared that they would read my notes, hear me saying the same thing and think to themselves “how stupid is this girl?!”.
I broke down to the doctor, I cried and cried, completely blurting out my exact thoughts and feelings and she was so incredibly lovely. She handed me a box of tissues, she spoke to me and calmed me down and I completely forgot I was in the doctors office. Once I was calm, she did a couple of tests on me very slowly, explaining and talking me through each one and at the end of them all it turned out I had been right all along. I wasn’t going crazy and I really did know when my body was telling me something. I had a lung infection and one of my lungs was actually sounding very weak in comparison to the other. This was music to my ears – that sounds crazy I know, but I was starting to feel like I was going insane that I was feeling so sick yet maybe there wasn’t anything wrong with me? It turns out that I had a viral infection as well as a lung infection and when my body was trying to fight off the lung infection by itself, it wasn’t coping very well which then meant because my immune system was already under attack, I caught a viral infection too. With being asthmatic and already having a weakened immune system, my body simply couldn’t fight off two infections by itself with only paracetamol helping. I was prescribed the right medication and over the last week I have felt more myself each day. The cough that kept me up at night was finally not as loud or as strong, my chest no longer feels like someone is sat on it and I can finally breathe out of my nose again! I haven’t had a headache or a migraine in over a week and I can actually get out of bed with some energy.
I have never been more thankful that the third doctor I saw ran basic tests on me, something the other two doctors did not do. I’m thankful she saw me and understood me when I said “I know my own body and something isn’t right!”. When I had visited the walk in clinic days before, the doctor I saw checked my ears, nose and throat and told me that my tonsils were inflamed and thats probably why my cold wasn’t disappearing as quickly as normal, I laughed at her and she probably thought I was the rudest person, until I informed her that at the age of 4 I had my tonsils removed, so my tonsils being inflamed, were most definitely not the reason why I was so ill. Her face was a picture but it is the instances like this where doctors clearly arent looking at your history or diagnosing you properly.
I sat in the walk in clinic for nearly 4 hours, to spend all of 3 minutes with the doctor. The doctor I saw was the only doctor on shift in a full walk in clinic where people were waiting that long. I was probably just another patient that could be passed off with a “common cold” just to get me in and out in under 5 minutes, but that shouldn’t be happening. As an asthmatic person alone I should have been taken more seriously and checked over more thoroughly, but with a lung infection in the mix, it should have been picked up and treated 2 weeks earlier than it was.
Whilst I still value the NHS and those who work within it, I now understand the frustrations that so many are feeling. Whilst my health issues were only tiny in comparison to other peoples, the lack of care meant I’ve had almost 2 weeks off work unpaid which isn’t great at-all and could have been stopped if my first visit to see a GP had gone the way my final visit went.
This whole experience also made me realise that as someone who suffers from severe asthma, when I do go and see doctors or any healthcare professional I need to forget that there are others in the waiting room and I need to make sure that I sit down and make the doctor or nurse hear me when I tell them how my health is and what it should be like. I need to stand up for myself more and make myself heard. It is so important to look after our health and our bodies and that may even mean getting a little strong worded with your GP.
So, from here on out I will be taking more time for myself, keeping myself in a routine and I wont ever let a health care professional pass me off with a ‘cold’ again, when I know my body is telling me something else!
See you soon,