on not dying after all

Five years ago today I went into hospital to have an operation which saved my life. Without being too dramatic, if I hadn’t had the care and attention quickly I simply would not be here today.

An experience such as this changes you.  After all this time I will never forget the way I was treated, cared for and healed by a team of people who worked together to fix me.  The 4th August 2010 was in some way the beginning of the rest of my life.

There is something about facing the fear of illness and surviving that makes you consider all that came after.  I can still see the doctors talking together, working out how to make me well. I can see the nurses who held my hand and the wonderful young registrar who stayed with me all night, a night I had no faith I would survive. Their skills, their professionalism, humanism and all round wonderfulness pulled me through.

On sunny days with my family I find myself thinking about them, and saying a silent thank you. Thank you to the NHS, the best of the best, from my GP who took my worries seriously, to the hospital clinic team and the surgeons and nurses who literally made me well.  Thank you really doesn’t seem enough.

In the five years since lots of things have happened and I have been here for all of them.  Here to support my family, through tough times, here to see my son marry his amazing wife, here to hold their daughter, my baby Granddaughter and to watch her turning from new born baby to gorgeous toddler in front of our eyes.   Here to make my wedding vows with the best man in the world by my side, surrounded by our friends and family to celebrate our good fortune in finding each other.  This is the same man who spent the hours I was in surgery in the hospital Chapel and who made sure his was the first face I saw when I awoke.  Here for countless sunny holidays and fun times, all of which would have been lost to me, but for good fortune and our NHS.

Five years on I am still being me, a Mum and a Wife, a Nana and a Sister. I still have great friends and a wonderful life.  So, this morning I will take a moment to reflect on how fortunate I have been, how thankful I am to live in a country where we can access the best health care ever, and to count my blessings of which I have many.

This was the second time my life was saved by the NHS, as a baby another operation in another hospital gave me my whole life.  I have always know this, but never had the memories, I was too young to remember.  This time I will never forget.

Thank you for the rest of my life.  I will try and make the most of every day of the time I nearly didn’t have.  I will stand up for our NHS proudly and loudly and I will fight in every way I can to protect it.  I have to, I owe my life to them.  Twice.

on life’s lessons learned

I was born in the late 1950’s a time of rock and roll, of working class heroes who could never of imagined John Lennon, a time of hope after war, of new and exciting foods back in the cupboard.  I had my childhood in the 1960’s with my Sindy doll and my Lady Penelope car, an annoying little sister who pinched my stuff and cried to Mum.  All standard stuff.  The 1970’s were teenage years, no alcohol, it wouldn’t have been allowed but music and youth clubs and cadets and friendship.  The 1980’s and 1990’s passed in a blur of children, nappies, school books, friendships and red wine.  The new century, yes I have lived in two centuries, saw me in a new life, a new town and a growing family.  That was then, today is now.

I have lived through almost six decades, and do you know I have learned stuff along the way.  I know more now than I have ever done.  I have experienced a lot of life, been a Daughter, a Mother, and a Wife (twice), I have buried people I love and I have bathed beautiful babies and watched them grow.  I have worked and played hard.  All of this has given me experience, I know stuff.  Lots of stuff.

So why now have I suddenly become invisible?  I have been categorised and dismissed,  Believe me, until you have sat in a doctors office being told ‘well you are getting old’ you have no idea!!  Getting old!!  I am not even sixty, it was five minutes ago when I was dancing in the street.  When I look in the mirror I still see me, I see sometimes see a tireder version of me, some days I even see my Mum, but it is still me, I am still here.  I still know stuff.

I know that babies don’t cry forever, that one day the nights sleep you have dreamt of will happen and you will wake with a terror that quickly turns to a smile.

I know that money isn’t everything but life is really tough without any.

I know how to feed and clothe four children without them noticing there is no cash.

I know how to make memories that last a lifetime.

I know the value of friendship.

I know that life is a two way street.

I know that love is a gift and once you find it, it must be cherished and cared for, never ignored or taken for granted.

I understand how the world of work, works.

I know the only person you can truly trust is yourself.

I know that to have dreams come true, you first have to dare to dream, and how sometimes you have to take a chance.  No, I know that often you have to take a chance.

I know that change is growth.

I know how to take care of people,

I know how to listen to older people’s stories and understand their world as it was.

I know how to hear young people trying to work out their place in the the world and I can encourage both to tell me more.

I understand the value of a kind word, a smile and acceptance of a situation

I know when to challenge and when to sit back, (not often I do that mind you)

I know that if you save things for best, they often never get used.

I know that it is possible to be the one person, at that one moment, who can change someone’s life for the better

How amazing is it that I know all this stuff?  It is not stuff I learned in school, or I have written essays about, although I have done a fair share of that sort of learning over the years, it is stuff I know because I have lived it.  I made the mistakes that taught me everything.  I took the chances that sometimes ended disastrously and sometimes wonderful things happened.  I learned every step of the way.  I am still learning.  I learned this week that people do judge a book by the cover, I already knew that, but I wasn’t ever the book before.  If I can do all this in under six decades imagine how amazing it will be after another couple?

But, to a doctor, who I reckon has only lived through about four decades, and met me for less than 5 minutes I am an old person.  I need to understand that my body is old.  The hell I do.  My body is the same age as me, and I am have a lot of living still to do.  You see, this invisible women is going to be dancing in the street, and the world had better deal with it.