I have just written to my MP, Sheryll Murray , asking her to attend the debate on Monday about the NHS. I don’t think she will go. I have told her what happened to me this Thursday. I don’t think she’ll care beyond the tut tut stage. And we should do something about this. Here is her chance. attend the debate on Monday and do something to help her constituents.

Ah, I forgot. Even though she is my MP, the hospital I attend is in Derriford, Plymouth, so out of her jurisdiction. So she doesn’t need to do anything.

We all know about bed blockers- those unfortunate elderly people who are badly served by social services. We all know that hospitals are at danger level, dealing with so many A&E cases, there are no beds for preplanned operations. We all know about it, but until it happens to us, we tut tut and then allow the next atrocity to grab our attention.

A week ago, my preplanned operation was cancelled as there were no beds available on the weekend- a day they had chosen because the hospital was likely to be less full then. So don’t worry, Jeremy Hunt, the doctors and nurses were there, working twelve hour shifts. They couldn’t do their job because of the dreaded bed blockers. I understood. I was upset because I had prepared myself for general surgery. But I understood the pressure the hospital was under. I went home and waited to be called.

They rang on Monday. Come in Thursday, same time, same place, same nil by mouth. You’ll be staying overnight.

A neighbour dropped me off. He wanted to come with me in case the same thing happened as last Saturday, when they told told me it was cancelled just after I arrived. He wanted to make sure I would have a lift home with my little case. Don’t worry, I said. They won’t do it again.

There I was, the same receptionist, the same waiting room, the same 3/4 hour early. As I chatted with the women there one mentioned she had  been cancelled last Saturday too,but she had been caught as she was going out of the door.  Both of us had been called for 11:30.We watched as the waiting room filled up with day cases. Everyone had a small bag.

It soon grew so crowded that as someone’s name was called in to talk with the nurse, their seat was taken by a newcomer. I watched one couple move around the room, the chairs obviously not comfortable enough for their Goldilocks personas. They move at least four times, each time after someone had been called. Perhaps it was superstitious, those people had been called and if they moved into the lucky seats they would get called earlier. There was some comment from the crowd when a prisoner went in, handcuffed to a prison officer with another officer carrying his bag. It wasn’t long before he came out and went. The muttering died down.

I was called into the room with the nurse who went through my details. I had attended a pre operation assessment clinic the week before my original date. The nurse there was kind and supportive. This nurse was kind and supportive. I returned to my seat, not taken as it was one on its own, but a man in a wheelchair was now parked beside it. We smiled and then ignored each other, as one does. A little later the nurse came out and called me into the room again. They have decided that I wouldn’t need to stay overnight. There weren’t any beds. Could someone pick me up? Yes, I said, surprised, what time? Around 6pm.

Back in the waiting room, the women begin to chat as one does when stuck in a lift with the same people for hours. We count off who have been called to the nurses, who have been called in beyond the double doors. That is our aim now, to get called in beyond the double doors. My crochet went into my bag as I concentrated my energy on those doors. Hurrah! The lady next to me was called, then another, then the man opposite. Finally I was called by a woman in green scrubs- promising.

The anaesthetist takes me into a room and goes through my notes. She is rapidly followed by the surgeon.  He goes over the notes he made three weeks ago. You may be having the mitomycin-C wash or not. It depends what we find. He says, you are staying over night. I say no. I had been told I was going home afterwards. Oh, he says. I don’t think so. I will find out. Do you want to go home? I say I want to be safe.

We emerge into another waiting area. He doesn’t know what to do with me, leave me here or send me back through those double doors. He asks. They decide to let me sit in this waiting room, as a favour.

The women in this waiting room have their bags ready. One by one they are taken into the changing room and come back in their dressing gowns and support stockings. We laugh and chat. It sounds like a WI meeting, says a passing doctor. One by one, we say good luck as they are taken off for their surgery. Until it is just me and the elderly lady. She is changed into her dressing gown and support stockings. I am still in my day clothes with my bag at my feet.

The nurse who had asked me earlier if I could be picked up tonight calls me into a room. There are no beds. They have someone sleeping in Recovery. There are lots of admissions through A&E. It doesn’t look as if I will be having the op after all. Can I call my husband and get him to come and collect me?  I can wait in the outer room.

I go out of the double doors and hide behind the rows of high backed chairs so the children in the area don’t see the tears rolling down my cheeks. I text my husband. It is now 3:45pm. Can you come and get me now? He is an hour away.

Half an hour later my name is called. A different nurse is there at the double doors. I thought I was going home, I say, my husband is on his way. I’ve been told to get you ready for theatre, says the nurse who takes me through a side door into the changing area. She puts my stockings on. My bag is locked away. I sit in my dressing gown on my own in the waiting area. My husband arrives as I am still sitting there.

I am called to go through more doors. He is told it will be a couple of hours and he will be called to collect me. So he goes home.

I come round to find a catheter has been fitted for the mitomycin-C  chemo dose. They ask how many loos we have at home. Two? Oh good, because you need one to yourself. The booklet I had been given three weeks ago had said bleach needed to be put down the loo after urinating for at least 24 hours to make sure all the chemo had been passed. It would burn unprotected skin. I watch as the purple liquid is squeezed into my bladder. It hurts but I have to hold it inside for an hour if I could manage. I am given lots of pain killers.

I can hear the elderly lady as she is taken off to her ward. I hear another day case being discharged and the doors pinging as she leaves. I am alone in Recovery. There are no evening cases. The unit will close at 10 pm. My husband rings and is told to come in and park at the drop off area so he  can collect me.

The mitomycin-C is drained out of me and the catheter removed. All they are waiting for now is for me to wee. I sit up  and have a cup of tea. My head is spinning. Great, I think, this is my Meniere’s kicking in. I sit on the commode. I drink another cup of tea on the commode. I am shaking. It is getting late and I haven’t weed yet.  They have found a bed for me if I want it.

I don’t know what to say. Am I taking someone else’s bed who will need it more than me? What is the right answer? I want the comfort of being in my own home, but that is over 40 mins away. To go home and be worse? To stay and block a bed? I have to make the choice.

My stomach makes it for me and I am violently sick.

I stay overnight. I have a full blown Meniere’s attack and sleep most of the morning until my husband can come and get me. But from the moment they bring me a hot drink in the morning till I leave, I feel dreadful. I am a bed blocker. I have taken someone’s bed. Someone who had an emergency in the night won’t be able to move from their trolley to a bed because I am in it. And because of the Meniere’s, I can’t get out of bed to move to the day room to allow someone else in first thing in the morning. This feeling overrides the fact that I have had my TURBT ( TransUrethral Resection of Bladder Tumour). It is out. All 2cm of it. I should be happy. I am glad. Glad that now I am home and will no longer be a bed blocker.

So Sheryll Murray and Jeremy Hunt,on Monday, when there is the debate on funding of the NHS,think on my story. What the NHS needs is more funding, not less. The doctors and nurses don’t need to work more or longer, they do enough. What are needed are more beds. Non-joined up thinking with social services is only part of the problem.  Closure of local hospitals and wards within bigger hospitals is the problem. Re-open the local hospitals, provision them with the full care teams they need and some of the beds will become unblocked. There is no need to put people through the emotional turmoil that I have just gone through. I am not the only one. There are thousands like me across the country. Every time a pre planned operation is cancelled because of lack of beds someone goes through stress that only adds to their ongoing pain that put them in the position of having an operation in the first place. In a time when you have to be on your knees with pain before they will consider you for a joint replacement operation, then every delay is agony.

Find the money. We don’t need a high speed train, we need a high functioning health service.

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