Our precious. Your precious. Everyone's precious NHS.

It was around this time eleven years ago that my daughter Maggie (that's her at Malham Cove last spring) was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. It was a frightening time for all of us. She had just had her first birthday when her jaw began to swell and distort, disfiguring her face, exploding the bones in her jaw and sending her teeth in all directions. She cried in pain almost constantly for weeks. It was a while before she was correctly diagnosed and was able to receive treatment and I can remember standing at the kitchen sink, crying myself with the worry of the unknown as I listened to Joanne upstairs trying to comfort her. Without knowing what it was or what it would become, we had no idea what turn our lives would take.

Why am I telling you this? Because the rest of the story is all good news, that's why. And the reason it is good news is because of the NHS. This is the NHS that cares for its patients, that pulls out all the stops to save lives, that offers support and help and the world's greatest collection of knowledge and expertise and charges nothing for it. This is the NHS of a society that cares about each and every one of us equally, that is motivated by society and the good that it needs to survive. It is the NHS that is based on the principles of decency and fairness and the greater good.

It is the NHS that is worth fighting for. Or at least getting off our arses and voting for.

And that's not the NHS of privatisation and profit and corporations or an NHS that is governed by people who care for naught but money. It is the NHS of the people, our precious.

Let me tell you now of the wonderful things that the NHS did for us. For a start they saved Maggie's life, which is good enough in itself. The NHS also provided us with a private room on an oncology ward in Bristol for six months while she received treatment. They explained to me what oncology was too. They fed Maggie, changed her bedding and gave her a six month long course of very expensive chemotherapy. They provided a bed in that private room so that Jo or I could sleep next to her each and every night, so that she would never be alone. They provided round the clock care. They paid for Maggie to have operations to insert Hickman lines, and to remove them afterwards.

When the time came for Charlotte to be born (Jo was 3 months pregnant when Maggie was diagnosed) the NHS provided another room for Jo, a midwife and all the know how and knowledge to deliver Charlotte into our lives safely. The NHS also provided a team to extract stem cells from Charlie's umbilical cord to put into cold storage should Maggie ever need them. They did that for free too. The NHS also paid for nurses Charlie and Charlotte - who gave Charlie her name - so that they had the knowledge and skill to save Maggie's life when she had an anaphylactic reaction to a new chemotherapy drug. The NHS paid for their wages and their training. And again, it cost us nothing. That really is a truly wonderful thing. We often wonder how much it would have cost in any other country.

The NHS also paid for all of Maggie's follow up treatment in the years since. It paid for monthly check ups for the first few months, then the six monthly check ups, now the annual ones. It paid for people to scramble when we had worried moments, when Maggie was ill or down in the years since. It pays for absolutely everything.

Jo was ill with the stress of all of this (understandably so) and - guess what - the NHS paid for her treatment for ulcerative colitis and it pays for the medication she still needs. And now that Jo has gone back to college to train as a nurse - so that she can give a little back to the system - it pays for her fees and gives her a bursary to help make the hard years of study a little easier.

I also owe an awful lot to the NHS, besides our health. When we were in hospital Jo and I vowed that we'd buy another camper if we got out intact. We did. So all the good things that have happened since are down, in part, to the NHS too.

We owe the NHS so much beyond the small payments we make via our taxes. We owe it our lives, our smiles, our daughter, our future. So how could we stand by and allow it to be broken up and dismantled, sold off and turned into another greedy, selfish corporation?

Yes so it's sometimes different. yes the wards are understaffed and staff under appreciated. yes so sometimes you need to shout loudest to be heard or have to wait to be seen. So what? It is facing tough times. Despite this there are still many, many people who, like us, owe their lives to its very existence.

Apparently there is an election coming up.  I shall be voting with my heart and soul and life in the hope that the rest of the UK does the right thing and votes to keep the NHS in public hands. Because we all owe our lives to this precious institution. My precious, your precious, everyone's precious NHS.

Thank you.

BTW Maggie is in full remission and has been for 10 years. We were lucky.


  1. Brilliant post. I've been an NHS employee for most of my working career (although not a clinical one) and I'm very proud of the NHS. Like your wife, my Mum suffers from ulcerative colitis and the NHS was brilliant during her diagnosis and continued treatment. If it wasn't for the NHS my Dad would not have survived the pneumonia and sepsis he had a few years ago. The NHS isn't perfect but I would hate to think what it would be like if we didn't have it, when people would die from easily treated illness because they couldn't afford to pay to see a doctor.

  2. Martin,
    You obviously have a very deep commitment to the NHS because of your own and your families experiences. However, I am not sure this piece has a place on CampervanLiving, Life on 4 wheels, cooking on 2 rings. If you wish to expound your views on the NHS and political opinions then please do it on a separate blog; we come here to read about camper van living.

    1. First read this from 2011: http://campervanliving.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/why-do-we-do-it-because-lifes-too-short.html
      Next, unsubscribe.
      Finally, next time you hurt yourself camping and need treatment in hospital for burns, cuts, bruises, whatever, go private.

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  4. Apple Tree, a blog is an outlet that can be used to express personal feelings and beliefs - there is no rule to their content regardless of the title. This blog is about Martin's life, which happens to include campervans in it.

  5. Hi from Portugal
    I was moved by your post.
    I have a 11 years old daughter that I love with all my heart and while I am lucky that till now she never had any relevant jhealth issue, I can just imagina what you have been trough, my deepest simpathy, and I hope all your worries on your familly health are now in the past.
    We used to have a fairly good NHS here in Portugal (not as good as yours, but a fair and decent one) but for the last years our politicians have done all they can to destroy and privatise it, so as to please the big health companies.
    We will also have elections this year and I will do here what you will do there.
    Lets hope that most of our country citizens here and in the UK will also do what is right.
    All the best and thank you for your briliant post.

  6. For 40+ years the NHS has kept me alive on a daily basis and saved me when I've gotten near the edge a few times. They've kept my loved ones alive and improved their quality of life in all the ways described above and more.

    Without them we wouldn't be here now to read this and reflect that life is about living, enjoying whatever makes us tick (camping, laughing and burning stuff on two rings) and without the NHS that wouldn't be possible.

    Thank you Martin, keep posting and writing.

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