Shaking My Fist at the Sky

My brother was in hospital for surgery today.

He’s had a kidney stone for months. It is one of those things the NHS no longer fix in the early stages. They hope it will just ‘go away.’

I understand this. There is no money, and if you know anything at all about the NHS you will know that they now routinely employ what they call rationing. This means that they do not stop offering certain treatments/drugs, but they do make the criteria to get them almost impossible to achieve. Kidney stones, along with hernias, are things that are often on hospital trust ration lists.

To be fair, sometimes people do pass kidney stones without any help,  but sometimes they don’t and in my brother’s case, he didn’t. In fact his kidney stone got bigger and bigger and worse and worse. In fact, the drugs they gave him several months ago which they swore would decrease the size of the stone and make it possible for him to pass it, actually caused it to double in size.

It was still not enough to get him on the emergency surgery list.

He used up all his sick leave a long time ago, and has been put through horrors at work because they couldn’t make their minds up if he was ‘putting it on’, despite numerous doctor letters, hospital letters etc.

And the fact that in the last few months he has collapsed at work three times and had to be taken to hospital. His work is very physical, and it aggravates his condition. On top of this he has had endless UTI’s, been passing blood etc. It has been properly grim. His daily drug regimen is truly impressive.

His work only really started to take him seriously the last time he collapsed and the hospital doctor actually said that if he collapsed again, they would have to do emergency surgery to bypass the stone until they could get him on a waiting list to remove the stone.

How mad is that?

He finally got put on the emergency surgery list at the end of May. You would think that emergency lists mean that you get seen quickly.

You would be wrong.

He finally went in for surgery three weeks ago, and got that appointment only because he kept ringing them. Originally he had not been scheduled in June or July.

Three weeks ago, he spent nine hours sitting in a cubicle in a split back nightie and then they sent him home.

They only have one surgeon who does this kind of treatment, and he hadn’t managed to fit my brother in.

He was rescheduled for today. He was first on the list for surgery, except that they mixed today’s notes up with the notes from the last time he was there and hadn’t followed all the correct pre-surgery routines, so he was delayed.

He got out of surgery an hour ago.

They had called my parents to come and pick him up at five o’clock. When my parents arrived it transpired that they had mixed my brother up with someone else.

Luckily, they didn’t mix him up with someone else in the actual operating theatre, although since going up to the ward, they have managed to lose his bag with all this things, including his phone in it.

He should be out tomorrow. Unless they send someone else in his place. Possibly with his bag.

We, his family, are furious about this. The whole thing, the months and months of fobbing off, and rescheduling and having to constantly phone, and push people, while my brother got sicker and sicker and more and more desperate. His quality of life has been dreadful for months. The pain of a kidney stone is likened to the pain of giving birth, to put things in perspective.

The most infuriating thing? It’s that I know all these people today were doing their best. The hospital is woefully underfunded and understaffed. Mistakes are made because there are individuals working ridiculous hours, there are individuals doing two or three people’s jobs and trying to fit in too many things in too short a space of time, and it’s not just my brother that is suffering, it is everyone, patients and staff alike.

When stuff like this happens, you feel bad complaining to people you know are trying to help you, who have too many patients, too few hours, not enough pairs of hands. You know they are doing what they can with the ridiculously little they have. You bite back the words you want to say because it’s not their fault, just like it’s not yours.

And if it’s like this now, God help us all when Hunt forces the new junior doctor’s contract on these poor buggers, and Theresa May sends back the 26% of NHS workers who aren’t UK passport holders or who don’t earn £35k a year or more, and they cut and cut and cut more and more services and budgets, selling off the bones to the highest private bidder.

I don’t have a solution, except to push Jeremy Hunt in a cupboard and lock the door, and pray for a miracle. I just needed a place to vent, and it’s here. Thanks for letting me rant into the ether.


40 responses to “Shaking My Fist at the Sky

  1. Rant on, Katie. You’re ranting on behalf of many of us. Bless you.

  2. Oh that is so awful. I know exactly how your brother feels. I started getting blood in my wee last November and despite months of antibiotics didn’t get the first consultants appointment until mid May this year -6 months on, despite the scan showing kidney stones on my bladder, continual anti spasmodics for my poor over active bladder and 2 serious nights of chronic pain when my bladder decided to eject the sugar cube sized stones. I was really fortunate that my dad raided his pension to send me private.

    The stones were caused my a previous visit to hospital last August for a minor gynae procedure which also had me off work for 10 weeks after just one night in an nhs hospital after appalling after care.

    I’m ok now – a year on so send my heartfelt sympathies to your poor brother.

  3. Words fail me, Katy.
    Your poor brother, and the rest of you…It’s unfathomable. Is it necessary to be at death’s door before getting help these days? I’ll stand guard over Jeremy Hunt’s cupboard, if we can only catch the bastard.

    Sending well wishes to your brother, and waves of calm and peace to you and yours.


  4. frenchbrandywine

    So sorry about your brother Katy but glad he has at last been done. I agree, the dreadful mess the NHS is being reduced to by Hunt and his paymasters is scandalous.

  5. That sucks. Hope your brother is out and on the mend real soon!

  6. smerlinchesters

    “when Hunt forces the new junior doctor’s contract on these poor buggers, and Theresa May sends back the 26% of NHS workers who aren’t UK passport holders or who don’t earn £35k a year or more, and they cut and cut and cut more and more services and budgets, selling off the bones to the highest private bidder.”

    Friend of mine (Italian) is a doctor working in a Cambridge and said that the pressure upon them is up the roof. After Brexit she is thinking to move elsewhere because they are fed up with long hours, 4-5 nights in a row, 16 hours spent in the theatre, etc. plus the hostility against them from British colleagues.
    I’m hearing so many cases like your brother that any time I feel sick I always wait to get to the breaking point, hoping it will go away… because I don’t want to get in a hospital again in UK (been only once for a few hours in the last 7 years). I know it might be of no comfort to you, but kidney stones and hernias stopped to be treated at the first symptoms in Italy too, in the 1990s. I’ve 4 hernias in my neck, still there after 13 years.

  7. Oh Katy, I am so sorry for your brother. I am sorry your family has to go through this. The fact they kicked him out of hospital so early isn’t a good thing either… He needs some time to recuperate under a watchful eye to keep repercussions at bay. I hope it all goes well for him now.
    The theory I have heard is they want to run the NHS so far down into the ground we will be grateful to take on private health care because everyone “knows” that private companies are so much more efficient that government run institutions. That is how Maggie sold the selling off of the trains. She underfunded them until the commuters were driven crazy, then she said look the trains don’t work well so we should put them into the hands of some mates of mine who will run it all better. Yea like f*@k they run it better. Hunt has some friends all lined up to come in and make it better for us with private insurance because you see “the NHS just wasn’t affordable,” …. The reason we can afford the NHS on Tory funding is because the doctors and nurses have such a sense of commitment to the health and welfare of the nation going often beyond the call of duty and what we pay them. So Hunt is pulling a swifty on that arena of good deeds thus making the NHS even more inefficient. Look you probably know all this already so , sorry for the rant but I am so so angry ….. still.
    When will these Leave voters (not including the UKIP leave voters here) understand that all their problems were not with the EU but with the Austerity package sold to them as a necessity by a monster raving loony Tory Party. That things are just going to get worse and worse and that they need a come to Jesus moment when they demand a general election.

  8. I have been very lucky in that the treatment I have received has been prompt and wonderful. However you are right, no one should have to suffer like your brother for so long. I just don’t know what we can do. It’s heartbreaking. Liam Fox is likely to try to put another spanner in the works, I just hope that he can be stopped. All the best. Sandra

  9. 1. Love you blog, thank you.
    2. If you are interested in the subject of medical fuck-ups and what do do with them, and haven’t read Atul Gawande, check out his books. He is a surgeon moonlighting as a writer (or the other way around) and his insights are great and provoking, kind of “Malcolm Gladwell of medicine.”
    3. Hope your brother recovers quickly. If you accept virtual hugs from strangers, here is one.
    4. Love your blog, thank you.

  10. I am so sorry. Kidney stones run in my husband’s family. They are terribly painful. I thought it was awful when we had to wait a week for an operation on a 1-cm one. I can’t imagine putting someone through months of such pain. Best wishes to your brother.

  11. so so sorry to hear about this and i really hope your brother and your family recover quickly.

  12. Your poor brother. What an ordeal! Hope he is recovering and feeling better now.

  13. Sorry to hear this.
    I now live in France, and I bless the day I moved here. Apart from the marvellous life style, I was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma cancer 5 years ago. At that time the UK refused to pay the cost of the almost miraculous new treatment from the USA ($30,000 per injection and you need 4).
    Within a fortnight here in France I had my first injection, and most of my melanomas disappeared virtually overnight. As you are usually dead within a year I would have died in the UK 4 years ago.
    Things were fine with regular 3 monthly scans then 2 years ago there were signs that the melanomas were starting to return. since then I have had a further 3 series of injections costing the French health system £250,000 at least, and I am now clear again.
    Only last year did the UK start allowing limited use of this treatment.
    It has been quite heartbreaking for my wife talking on a support site for melanoma sufferers in the UK as each of the women she talked to had lost their husbands one after the other.

    Pratts who go on about immigrants going to the UK for the wonderful free health care know bugger all. Every European country has a free healthcare system and the UK is rated as one of the worst. The WHO has rated the UK as 30th (Even the USA with virtually no free healthcare came in at 36th).

    So my sympathies, but I’m not surprised.

  14. Here’s hoping your brother makes a complete and speedy recovery. I share your concern having spent far too much time in various hospitals during the last three years as a patient and a worried relative. The staff are always battling against inadequate support and resources, and are required to spend valuable time on admin instead of actually treating people. My husband ended up in hospital for four days longer than he needed to after surgery on a multiple fracture to his leg, because there wasn’t a doctor available to prescribe medication and sign off on his paperwork, and no staff to plaster his leg and issue crutches. Shambles.

  15. The government is evil. We have loads of money for nuclear weapons, but the health service we built for ourselves is being deliberately destroyed by them, so their chums with “health businesses” can make money from our illnesses.

  16. Reblogged this on Myriad Shades of Gray and commented:
    I’ve been watching what Kathleen Wynne is doing to the Ontario Health system and found myself wondering if Katy’s blog might contain a little foreshadowing…

  17. I’m so sorry he went through that. Most patients I know who have given birth and had kidney stones would take babies every time. It’s awful.

    Thank you so much for realising what lies beneath and being sensitive enough to have empathy for we who can’t wave magic wands despite our desperate wishes to do so.

    Every day on an Acute Medical Unit I have a weather eye out for ‘my’ patients and fight like a tiger for those precious resources. The cardiology reg is so stretched she can’t see everyone on her list, so I pounce with uber charm as soon as she comes onto the ward to see the most in need. Today she was fried and needed a hug because she was torn in so many directions and has no senior support.

    She’s awesome. Made of nails, super smart, beautiful bedside manner, really gives a damn and every day she’s run ragged trying to do her best in a system which has no slack.

    Have you read Pratchett’s Going Postal? Where the Grand Trunk company is deliberately run into the ground, asset stripped and the wonderful people who made it fly, made it hum with energy and life were marginalised, devalued and crushed?

    I had a 12 hour shift yesterday where the only time I was ever happy was when with patients. I can’t get scans done fast enough, can’t get people home where they are safer from HAP and C diff because of slashed social care budgets, can’t get mental health reviews because of rationing policies (3 suicidal patients, 1 PTSD, 1 ED with BMI of 12.5 all on gen med over weekend with no pysch review), also I’m seeing an increasing trend of squabbling over beds between departments and the atmosphere becoming hostile with pressure. Despite this, people are wonderful. I’m so tired, sick of bullshit, sick of lies and regret my decision at age 35 to give up a nice life and do this. £60000 student debt and I earn not much more than the cleaners per hour and they look relaxed and HAPPY darn them/good on them, rota from hell (the contract states it is OUR duty to ensure cover, not the trust, meaning that frequently leave is refused because not enough people are on ward. These days are never carried over or compensated) but I have a super proud family who positively vibrate with love for me for doing this. One amazing thing is working with a babel of nationalities; morning meeting and I was one of two white Anglo in a room of fourteen docs. At lunch I got educated by a Sudanese colleague re high esteem for Brits in Sudan…apparently we must not hang heads for colonial shame on their account. Who knew?! Barely compensates for partition and other atrocities though!

    Trapped by passion, idealism, love for our fellow man and wishful thinking that all this shit will just get better somehow…we keep buggering on because it’s what we do. What would happen if we didn’t? Think how fab it could be if we paid a penny more tax and stopped electing sociopaths.

    I hope your brother makes a full recovery and stays stone free.

    Thank you for sharing venting space – this is my first time talking about my job in a public place. We’re not allowed you see, media training strongly discourages it with dire threats of censure, thus we censor. Time to nail colours to flags though and bless your socks for sticking your head above the parapet pour encourager les autres. Go you!

  18. So sorry to hear about your brother. I hope they have finally done something to make him better this time. God, what a fiasco. And I thought things were bad here. Rant away, Mrs Boo, rant away.

  19. Only just read this blog and the comments. I can’t add anything useful – but I am sending and over-sized hug to you and yours, Katy xx

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