Monday, 5 June 2017

paying it forward, gratitude and the NHS: how lucky we are


I am a nurse, working in an A&E. I am also a tutor of meditation and a Connected Kids™ tutor and trainer. I am a parent. I spend a lot of my life giving up time, energy, listening, helping, teaching...sometimes swearing under my breath or occasionally stamping my feet on the ground, folding my arms, scowling and grumpily declaring "Not Fair!". 
Recently I've become a patient, relying on the NHS to help me out. I have had a health scare, which involved me being fast-tracked for investigations to rule out something that may have been rather sinister. Today I got to sample the hospital where I work from the other side of the fence. I arrived an hour in advance of my appointment, because I knew it was going to be a waiting game for a parking space (If it wasn't for the fact I live 30 miles away, public transport would have been an easier option). I scampered off to the canteen for a coronation chicken sandwich and wolfed it down in the waiting room, making a jolly mess, actually. But I didn't care, because I had a paper towel and some alcohol rub to clean my hands and erase all evidence of my gorging on coronation chicken in a half-full waiting room on a rainy Monday afternoon. A sandwich where I'd been able to get a staff discount, as I'd remembered to bring my ID badge with me. Well, there have to be some perks to working for the fifth largest employer in the world, doesn't there? My appointment was 50 minutes later than scheduled. But I actually didn't mind. Why? Because I worked a night and a day shift in a quick turnaround (my choice - albeit reluctant - to make up my contracted hours to fit around the social life of my ex-husband and the subsequent parental responsibility arrangements). So I got to doze off in the waiting room. Peace, quiet, no expectations upon me to Do Anything. Just to Be. How lovely! There are only ever two things which worry me about falling asleep in a public place:

1. The snoring. It's a Thing. 
2. The drool. I have no idea how I can cure this. But it's not a good look.

But the allure of soporific background noise in amongst a slightly uncomfortable plastic-covered static chair was too much for my tired body and mind to stay awake. I was just dozing off, heading into some bizarre world where coronation chicken met the subconscious mind of underlying anxiety mixed with the familiarity of being on home turf as a patient, and where the lingering scent of alcohol hand rub was at risk of being ignited with the underlying strands of mild fear which were wrapping themselves around my consciousness, when I heard my name being called. I jumped up in a hurry, pretending that I was awake the whole time. Which I clearly was. Otherwise, how would I have heard my name (maybe it was because they called me Nichola. I always feel like I'm being told off when I'm referred to as a Nichola). 
Anyway. After a consultation, some tests in which one involved a colleague I'd never met but had signed a piece of paper saying I had passed some training to do something (it's always nice to put a face to a name, but on this occasion I felt it was not appropriate to begin a conversation in that regard), I was reassured that although I and my GP had been absolutely right to get checked, the great news is that I am perfect. Sorry - I mean, perfectly well. 
Thank Fuck For That.

(I make no apology for the swear word).

I instantly felt the stress and worry melting away. It's been a tricky 10 days of wondering and worrying, albeit mindfully accepting my fears, worries and thoughts. To be told all is well is fantastic. But I also knew that of the 4 of us who were in the waiting room and had been handed the same pre-consultation questionnaire, one in two of us will, at some point, be given a diagnosis of cancer. As I left the department I couldn't help but wonder if the other women who had been there will have had further invasive tests and an anxious wait for answers, before being given the life-changing diagnosis of cancer. 


I walked back to my car in the pouring rain, feeling drained and exhausted, but relieved. I began to feel so grateful for the NHS, marvelling at its efficiency and ability to work despite everything that is being done to systematically dismantle it (my own view, obviously). 
Then on my way home, as I experienced the gratitude,  I had this voice in my heart, asking me to pay it forward. 
So I stopped at a petrol station, checked my tyre pressures, then went into the shop. I randomly picked a petrol pump, then asked to pay for that person's fuel. The assistant was surprised but played along with me - I didn't want the man who had just filled his car to know that it was me who had paid for his fuel. I just felt so grateful: to know that I was clear of something that could have been dramatically and catastrophically life-changing for me (as a single parent I am forever aware that I have to be well, fit, healthy and able to care for my children. Being unwell is simply not an option for me). On the receipt I wrote, "Have a good day. Pay it forward. From Nikki".
The look on the man's face as I saw him pull away out of the station was a picture. I loved this: the thrill of making a difference to someone else warmed my bones. Random acts of kindness bring about physiological and psychological effects, and being kind has benefits which can be far-reaching, especially if they are paid forward. In light of the tragic events that have been happening recently, I want to encourage as many people as possible to #payitforward in order to share these feelings and experiences. I paid that person's fuel bill to help him, request that he do something to help someone else, to spread the love (oxytocin), and in gratitude of our marvellous, amazing NHS. 
T h a n k   Y o u