Would I have got the same treatment in the US? Yes – if I’d asked for it … and that’s the point!. Let me tell you about the sequence of events that have resulted in me needing heart by-pass surgery which’ll probably take place in early October.
One morning way-back in late January I woke-up with an ache in my side. I really didn’t think too much about it because it felt as if I’d pulled a muscle, stretched a ligament – something like that. Not a pain, just a bit of an ache. I went off to work with Jenny’s words in my ears. “If it gets any worse, or doesn’t go away – you must go and see a doctor. You’ve got Occupational Health in the University, go and see them!” By 12noon the ache hadn’t gone and for some reason, I cannot explain why, I thought I’d pop up to OccHlth and get an opinion – it has to be said it’s easier to get an appointment there than at my local GPs but that’s not the point.
After taking my BP and assessing me as best they could, they didn’t feel I’d had a heart attack, but the doctor I saw, Dr R – and I owe him a lot – thought it best to refer me up to UHW for further investigation and blood tests. About 6 hours later after a period of monitoring, and an X-Ray, an ECG and several blood tests taken, the determination was that I hadn’t had a heart attack. Instead of telling me to go home and stop worrying about nothing, and probably because of my family history – my father’s sudden death from a heart attack, they referred me on to have an Exercise ECG and that’s what led me to where I am today, and why I’m one of those who’s proud to say #whyilovethenhs and why my twitter avatar states that clearly.
The point is, I didn’t have to make a choice. I didn’t have to make a decision. I didn’t have to assess the risks that I might be subject to against the cost of treatment. I had referrals and treatment as of right.
Because of that I had the Exercise ECG and although I thought I was handling it quite well – a bit of heavy breathing, but heh! I’ve got asthma anyway so what can you expect! – but was told … “Alright you can stop now”. “How did I get on?” I asked. The technicians operating the machine couldn’t tell me, but they’d seen something and referred it on.
The next item of note (missing a bit out along the way) was the imparting of the information to me by my GP that I had angina. “You must be joking”, I said. “I’ve no pains in my chest; I walk most days; I run up stairs and I feel fine! Bit tired sometimes, and I yawn a bit, but otherwise … fine”. “Well angina is what you’ve got, and you’ll need to see a cardiologist.”
We’re now into early May and my first meeting with a consultant. I won’t retell the conversation I had with him, but suffice to say … it was an experience and one that (upon reflection) I really valued so much and am ever so grateful for. He advised me that I needed to have an angiogram and that one of the likely outcomes would be the insertion of a stent(s) to widen the veins that had got “furred up”. This was worrying, but he made it seem an everyday event and I went away confident that “all would be sorted” the next time I visited UHW.
Imagine my surprise when “my hero” said that I would benefit more from by-pass surgery than stents – even though he would have loved to have done the procedure! That was a real shock! To find I’d got 10-12 narrowings and one blockage and have no symptoms of heart disease, rather takes the stuffing out of you.
So that’s where I am today – waiting for an operation; hopefully in early October. One that would have not occurred, I’m sure, without the preventative screening care of the NHS. I feel fine. I’ve stopped running up stairs as that would appear a little unwise now. I still walk to work briskly. I have no chest pain. I have heart disease. I love the NHS.