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….This morning a horrible letter lay grinning at me from the mat like a snake on opioids. I knew it was a snake because it was from UW Medicine, the hospital in Seattle which had treated me initially when the gallstones first attacked my insides like red hot pokers. That was in October 2017. This is February, so I knew that this would mean my Insurance has not paid, and the envelope therefore contains a bill. Since the incident this has been my nightmare. When I took out the horribly expensive travel medical insurance did I declare every damn medical condition I had ever suffered? Would the insurer find a way not to pay?

Let’s shelve that envelope for a bit, and pick up my story from yesterday. (If you haven’t read it yet, http://jonelkon.com/is-the-nhs-a-mess/)


Jack Spratt could eat no fat

His wife could eat no lean

And so betwixt the two of them

They licked the platter clean!

(Old nursery rhyme)

We left me scouring the supermarket shelves for low fat and fat-free foods; being a pariah in restaurants with my “What have you got that’s low or no fat? And Vegetarian?” Another fucking SALAD??? Do you know how useless tasteless and anonymous fucking salad is? Especially without dressing.

Christmas was, as you would expect, bleak. There I was in a beautiful Shropshire cottage surrounded by Loved Ones, eating salad. Not QUITE true. Much as I crave your sympathy, my wonderful host found ways to make delicious veggie things which only caused mild pain. (I kept the pain secret, because I’m a hero.)

I forgot to mention: the gall bladder’s purpose is to deal with fat. (If you’re interested you can Google better than me. The details are catastrophically boring.) So if you eat fat, the chances of exacerbating the stone situation or making new ones is BIG. At least, according to the barrage of books dear concerned relatives friends and lovers deluged me with.



January 2018. A letter lay on my mat like a grinning Christmas fairy, radiating light.

They’d made me a slot! The NHS to the rescue! The joy was unconfined, dear reader. The idea of plunging head-first into one of those mad Portuguese custard tarts had haunted me for so long…at last, custard tart was me and I would be…custard tart!

Hammersmith Hospital was suddenly a warm, welcoming place full of smiles. I would go this far: full of love. Honestly. The ward so well-run, so clean, staffed by people I wanted to adore or adopt. There was NO evidence of crisis. People were calm, humorous, efficient.

My overwhelming emotion was gratitude. With a generous sprinkling of relief and a side-order of absolute joy. I couldn’t wait for the operation.

Initially, I will compare the ward and the people with the American experience. In the next blog (tomorrow)  I will compare the US system I experienced with the NHS. Again, from my experience,

I feel as if a table would be useful. I don’t know how to do that….unless I do it as a graphic. I’ll try: (but do read http://jonelkon.com/letter-from-america-part-2-a-rock-in-a-hard-place/

first if you haven’t done so. It’s much more fun than a table.)

University of Washington Seattle (One night) Hammersmith Hospital
Ward Large single person ward with ensuite bathroom 4-person ward. Spacious, on a top floor. Toilet next door.
Facilities All the usual medical facilities plus TV, all sorts of remotes for mysterious purposes As UW. Without the TV.
Staff Tens of them. Regular visits from groups of 3-4 announcing “Hi, I’m x and this is your team” No idea who the person responsible for my case was as several claimed that privilege. I suppose there were at least five of these “teams”. Dedicated Doctor KS, saw her several times. Saw each member of the team – surgeon, anaesthetist etc once only. Nurses – two in shifts. Wonderful people! Except for B who, while totally professional, kept telling me to uncross my legs…
Treatment Morphine for pain initially. Ultrasound, Chest X-ray (why) ECG, CT Scan, MRI with 3d render. Everything they could think of. Continually offered tests for unrelated illnesses eg prostate. Cholecystectomy – gall bladder removal. Morphine, Tramadol which caused me to stop breathing. KS and team got me breathing again with Naloxone.



Then, Aftercare: U of W: Here’s a number, call any time or come back if you have a problem. Well, my only problem was that they had done every damn thing except removing the gall bladder. Barstholes. Hammersmith: If you have a problem, phone the Ward. Yeh, try that!


Hit this site tomorrow to find out more in Part 3: NHS CRISIS: What Crisis. And ultimately, which would I rather: US or UK?

Available now! see http://jonelkon.com/nhs-crisis-what-crisis-this-one/



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