The Year from Hell
2015 was an incredibly difficult year.
To the extent that I am still coming to terms with it - however, my son and I survived, and that is in no small part due to the NHS. It all began with a phone call, as these horror stories often do, to say that my 31 year old sister had breast cancer. Women on my Dads side of the family have a history of breast cancer, often in their 30s. Sadly this was all too familiar a tale. Fast forward 10 months and my sister was doing well but was told that she was a carrier of the BRCA1 breast cancer gene.
I was 20 weeks pregnant and was awaiting my own test result. It was positive - I had the gene too. Another blow. As I was pregnant there was little I could do but wait.
My 20 week scan went well and we started to focus on my babies impending arrival. Tom was born in November 2015 and I fell head over heels in love in an instant. The first day in hospital passed in a happy, blurry bubble. A heart murmur was detected at his newborn check but I wasn’t especially concerned - newborns often have transient murmurs after all. When it was still there the next day and his oxygen saturation was found to be in the 70s, suddenly the innocuous murmur was looking more sinister.
After a horrendous wait while the most amazing team sprung into action, it was found that Tom’s aorta and pulmonary artery were transposed, he also had a large VSD and ASD. At 8 days old he underwent 12 hours of open heart surgery. Watching him wheeled into theatre is still one of the most painful memories I have. To entrust the most precious person in your life to an unknown, but incredible, team is heart wrenching.
He survived the surgery but suffered a cardiac arrest a couple of days after. Thankfully he was resuscitated quickly and made fast progress thereafter. Shortly after this ordeal I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction. Another 12 hour surgery. I trusted my surgeon implicitly, the dedication shown by these surgeons to undertake 12 continuous hours of surgery is mind blowing.
One week after the surgery I was struggling to breathe and was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism and sepsis. It has been a long road, I’ve had 4 further surgeries but I am so incredibly grateful that the NHS funds preventative surgeries for people like me. My risk of breast cancer has dropped from 90% to less than 5%. My sister, my son and myself have all survived and thrived despite the year from hell.
We have so much to be thankful for. I will never complain about a long wait for an appointment or procedure again. These people are saving lives, and we are not having to remortgage our houses to afford our health care. Tom’s treatment alone would have been a six figure sum is we had lived in the USA.
Thank you NHS, from the bottom of my heart.