11 days ago, our son Noah was born. It was not an easy pregnancy, with minor complications along the way. Awaiting our third (and final) child was far from the exciting time that all parents hope for. His safe arrival was down to a dedicated team of medical professionals. Once again the process felt like miracle and madness in equal measure.
We came home on the day he was born, looking forward to a crazy life with three boys. 5 days later we were returned to Earth with a bump. During a routine midwife visit, it turned out Noah had lost far too much weight. Before we knew it, we were back in the hospital, in a crowded room filled with a doctors vying desperately to put in a cannula. Compared with many parent’s experiences Noah’s travails were minor, but this was comfortably the worst moment of my life.
Fortunately Noah stabilised quickly, and from then on it was a case of sitting, watching and waiting whilst he normalised. There were no further dramas, just two parents willing their son to be able to come home. Except it wasn’t just us two. For Noah’s care we used a tiny fraction of NHS resources, yet countless people worked tirelessly to bring him back to full health. Noah slept a lot during his first two days in hospital, so I had a lot of time to observe and marvel at the scale and brilliance of our National Health Service.
The hospital is like a beehive, filled with hundreds of bees scurrying about, fulfilling specialist tasks, that they alone are suited to do. Midwives, Nurses, Cleaners, Consultants, Housekeeping, Registrars, Deep Clean Teams, Maintenance, Senior House Officers, Nursery Nurses and Students, so many people all working together to try and make their patients better. All wearing differing colour uniforms; a rainbow army battling for a healthier Britain. The system isn’t perfect, not everybody did a perfect job, but they were unified in their role of bringing Noah back to health. One night whilst we were there, somewhere deeper in the neonatal care unit, there was something serious happening. Staff were called away. On the low-risk section we saw almost nobody. At 06.30 a registrar came to take Noah’s blood. He looked terrible, yet he gave Noah the care and attention he needed, and took time to reassure my wife that Noah was making progress. That level of dedication is priceless.
The logistics of running a hospital are incredible. Everything is checked and changed regularly, from beds and barrier curtains to the Milton sterilising fluid. There is a protocol for everything. On the face of it, it seems like ‘Health and Safety gone mad’ yet everything is done for the patient’s benefit. There are bottles of alcohol based hand cleaner everywhere you look, and countless bottles of liquid soap too, all in response to the threat of MRSA. Toilets that aren’t used regularly all have a decommissioning protocol stuck to the wall, that detail how to combat Legionnaire’s disease. It feels like nothing is left to chance in order to improve patient care.
Noah came home on the day that Doctors went on strike. This is not a political piece, so I won’t comment on how I feel about that, but I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the entity that is the NHS. We treat the NHS like a crochety relative. We like to moan about it, but love it deeply and would much saddened if it was no longer there. The NHS may just be the pinnacle of human endeavour. It exists for all our benefit, young and old, rich or poor and is something to be proud of. Let’s hope it stays that way.