Put directly, during last week I was aware of some kind of virus-like symptoms which were gradually becoming more serious. A volcanic, ribcage-rattling cough was later joined by a shortness of breath and a seriously snotty cold. Was it Covid? I’d been on a pub crawl with friends the previous Friday. Though, more importantly, had also had a booster jab.
But last Saturday, matters came to a head. The breathing got worse and nothing to hand - inhalers to manage asthma - was any use. By late afternoon I knew that doing nothing would see me exit the house feet first. So a call to 999 it had to be. Within half an hour, an ambulance crewed by two paramedics had arrived to try and turn matters round.
They broke out a nebuliser. They were sure this would be familiar to me. It wasn’t. “But you’ve got asthma!” True, but it was a condition well managed, there had been no serious attack for around 40 years, and so nothing more than inhalers and monitoring was needed. Some improvement was made but the decision was made to take me to A&E.
And so, at around 1800 hours, I was wheeled into Leighton Hospital, a chair having been wheeled out as my mobility was deteriorating rapidly. There was a queue, but not a long one: soon, in a side room, medics and nurses got to work administering a cocktail of drugs. I was moved to a quiet corner of the area to get some rest.
Later in the evening, being wheeled by trolley to X-Ray (chest X-Ray is more or less obligatory in such cases), I saw the A&E queue at its longest, a line of chairs and trolleys waiting patiently for diagnosis. It looked grim. But they would all be seen: if necessary, they would be treated, and a few would be admitted. The NHS sees everyone.
The duty doctor eventually got round to me at around 0100 hours on Sunday morning. There was, he declared, no way I would be sent home in that state. This meant being admitted. Another nebuliser followed, along with a call for a nasal cannula. So began my first encounter with supplemental oxygen. It became quite a lengthy one.
At around 0240 hours, there were two news items: it was a virus, but not Covid (it’s RSV, and especially affects older people with underlying respiratory problems). Also, a bed had been found for me. A nurse wheeled my trolley through a maze of corridors to South Cheshire, formerly a private unit but now used mainly for Covid patients. The individual rooms make distancing between those patients easier to manage. The A&E queue had just been cleared. All who came had been seen and treated.
With the attention of the ward team came a stabilised, and indeed, slightly improving condition. There is not much to do when confined to your room on a hospital ward, but it is infinitely better than chancing your life and not bothering when matters are out of your control. RSV can be fatal; let’s say I got the sneak preview. When I had a real Near Death Experience, and really needed the NHS, it was there for me. For now, at least.
Leighton Hospital, Crewe: aerial view looking south
Why the NHS may cease to be there for any of us in future, at least the 90+ percent of the population unable to shell out and go private, as right-wing parliamentarians, equally partisan members of the media class and their hangers-on are, became clear to me as I watched life in the South Cheshire ward play out over my four days there.
The ward is run by a team, all of whom, whatever their rank, wear similar blue overalls. Some, like specialist doctors, wear badges which you may be able to read close up. Otherwise, cleaner, HCA, Nurse, Doctor, Physio and other specialists are just another part of a team providing care. Tories must hate it. Because their press pals will hate it.
In Daily Mail la-la-land, the ward should be a land of hierarchy, where the colour of nurses’ freshly-starched uniforms clearly shows their rank and seniority. This is an unshakeable part of their Back To The 50s reality, as is the presence of an all-powerful Matron, a presence that in reality would do little more than waste everyone else’s time.
Worse still for those out there on the right, a uniformly non-uniformed team makes a highly egalitarian statement. So does the care they provide: the duty Doctor sees every patient, administering to all, listening to all, and favouring none. All patients select their food from the same menu, and all eat at the same mealtimes. All receive their day’s medication on the same Nurse’s round. All those seeing the Physio do so on the same daily round.
There is no-one paying more to jump the queue, obtain the benefit of a more upmarket standard of cuisine, have a little beer or wine brought to their room, or even have a lot of beer and wine brought to their room. But there is a team of truly diverse age, gender and ethnicity. Many of whom are putting in five 12-hour shifts every single week.
Egalitarian. Teamwork. Equality of care, and care for all. For right-wingers, this is hell on earth, almost a manifestation of communism. It is a manifestation that, in going against the false memory planted by the Mail and other propagandists, those propagandists must oppose and seek to either bend to their will - or have done away with altogether.
You want to know why so many on the right come over all froth at the mouth and blind intolerance at the very mention of the NHS? Spend a few days in an NHS hospital.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by becoming a Patron on Patreon at