Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital

Dear Sirs:

I am writing this letter to celebrate, applaud, eulogize and extol the NHS. I am an 81-year-old American. I contracted pneumonia, collapsing on the stair of a friend’s house. They called an ambulance that took me to Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital where I lost almost all of three days to respirator, breathing tube and oxygen. I do remember hallucinations in which I admired the inventiveness of the hospital designer who had turned the ceiling of the ward into an aquarium where I could watch brilliant colored fish swimming among the ceiling tiles.

When I came to more rational consciousness, I found myself, with windows on incredible views of the Houses of Parliament and the Thames, cared for by shifts of astonishingly kind, thoughtful, of course polite, intently dedicated people who heard me when I asked for help or information. Two of the best were Beccy who tried to tempt my appetite, which had gone into hiding, with various cheeses and Charlie a down to earth pillar of no nonsense with a sense of humor always ready to break cover. But there were many more remarkable for their patience with testy patients and their compassion for those whose suffering a bed away from me was from time to time audible. The staff was multi-national, many of West Indian background as well as others I found, as I asked about origins, from the Philippines, both people with a particular talent for long hours, little sleep and large dollops of compassion.

Just as wonderful, as I improved, were the PT staff who urged on my wobbly steps with bribes like, “If you use a cane I can sign you off to go to the bathroom alone.”

I did not see doctors often, only when necessary, usually marking a change in my status – being moved from intensive care to a room in isolation until I was declared no longer infectious. Moving from that status put me on a ward where most were straining at leash, gnashing at bit, to leave as the doctors judiciously decided when we were ready to leave and under what conditions. They badly needed the beds we were in but no one was hustled out before they could manage their new freedom.

For all these reasons I want everyone to know how superb I think the NHS is.

Thank you, Karen Swenson
Barcelona, Spain

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