I have left work on time, and although the morning started with me falling flat on my back on the icy pavement, things had improved.
The last thing I did that evening was watch the navy-tinged lips and cheeks lips of a woman turn pink beneath the plastic of a mask that I had pressed there. And I whispered, it’s ok, ‘we’ve got you’ and two nurses quickly set up the non-invasive ventilation machine as I did my best to create my own positive airway pressure and augment her breaths with the bag. And we did have her.
Now I have been stopped in the foyer by a wall of voices. Looking up from the screen of my phone, I see a male voice choir on front of the tall glass walls at our hospital’s entrance. They were positioned beside a Christmas tree, and the lights twinkled, reflected more against the blackness of the night outside the glass. The choir, the Christmas tree, the lights, the blackness of the sky outside and the snow on the ground.
The choir sing O Come All Ye Faithful. I am seized by the beauty of their deep mellow tones, and I look around. There are staff on their break with coffee, and patients with their visitors. There are people of different skin colours, those who use their clothes to express a culture different to my own and those in hospital uniform, teenagers in the corner, and toddlers standing closer to the front.
The choir continue with Ol’ Man River, and an elderly man pushes his wife, in a wheelchair past the crowd into the night and I notice that he is leaning on that wheelchair, like he needs the support to walk. Words still float around us; sick of trying, I’m tired of living, feared of dying, and in the crowd I spot a family who I know have come from my own intensive care unit and I know that they are experiencing a version of hell.
‘He just keeps rolling, he keeps rolling along.’
The singing continues. There is a middle-aged woman and what looks like her sister, whose headscarf tells me she is an oncology patient. They link arms and the choir sing On the Sunny Side of the Street.
And you can say I am laying it on thick, and I am; but it is true. I stopped at the door of my hospital and this is what is saw.
And so many people are giving money to the man dressed as Santa who carries a bucket with a sign that reads: ‘Help our hospital.’ Coin after coin drops and nobody says, ‘I already pay my taxes for this.’
As I leave, I look down again at my phone and our health secretary has something to say. He is welcoming ‘trolls and fans alike’ to come view his first ‘Facebook Live’.
I didn’t see any ‘trolls’ in that choir, and if there were any ardent Jeremy Hunt fans they weren’t wearing the T-shirt. It saddened me to think that in his mind we had to be one or the other, when the reality of the people who work in the NHS, who are cared for by the NHS, and who sing for the NHS, are so very much better than that.
By the Secret Doctor
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No one knows what goes on in that mans mind. Pound signs maybe. We are all behind you.
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