Friday, 5 July 2013

My Debt to the NHS on it's 65th Birthday

Well it's a happy 65th Birthday to the NHS!



And I for one am very happy that it exists. If people like Clement Atlee and Aneurin Bevan hadn't fought for it's creation in the rubble and austerity of postwar Britain then certainly I wouldn't be here. You see, my Dad developed rheumatic fever when he was a teenager through swimming in the Kennet and Avon canal down in Bath. When war was declared he tried to enlist in the Navy but was declared medically unfit as the fever had caused issues with his heart's mitral valve. So he spent the war in the Home Guard guarding a building up at a reservoir overlooking Bath. We say guarding as he had a rifle but no ammunition! One day him and his friend decided to break into the building to see what was in there. Turns out to have been stacked to the rafters with potatoes!

After the war and a short stint at a soap factory he went to work for BOAC's engine plant in Nantgarw. Whilst lodging with a local family at Trelewis he met a young woman who was to become his wife, and my Mum. They married and when my Mum became pregnant with my brothers in 1949 my Dad's health had deteriorated due to his heart problems. When the twins were born he couldn't even climb the stairs to see them.

My Dad, 4th from left, white boiler suit at Nantgarw
At that time the recently created NHS was introducing open heart surgery and he was offered an operation to see if they could repair his mitral valve. His local GP suggested it would be a bad move as the current level of failure for this type of operation was high. He told my Dad that he would likely die during the operation and that he should try and make the best of the likely 6 months that he had left to live. My Dad's response was to tell  the GP to bugger off! He had the surgery at the Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr and lived to tell the tale!

It would be a good story about the necessity of the NHS even if it stopped there but it doesn't. Fast forward to 1963 and my mum is pregnant with me and again my Dad develops issues with his mitral valve. So who steps forward to bring hope to the situation? The NHS. In he goes to Harefield Hospital to get his valve repaired yet again.

Move on to 1989 and just as my first son is being born my Dad is once again ill. The mitral valve is playing up and tests indicate it can no longer be treated. Only option this time is a valve replacement. And once again the NHS comes to the fore and operates on my Dad to replace his faulty valve with a plastic one.

If it wasn't for the NHS then putting it simply my Dad would have died in 1950 and I would not have existed. So I wish the NHS a happy 65th Birthday and may there be many more to come!

And to those who seek to destroy the NHS or to open it up to the vultures of private finance, don't ask what I wish for you.