As I pen these words, the current government’s disregard for the NHS has shattered my livelihood, my quality of life, and is now gnawing away at my mental wellbeing. Some may dismiss this as merely personal, but when you’re forced to choose between yourself and Bob the Patterdale for a meal, and witness your business spiral into oblivion, it becomes profoundly personal. And if it’s happening to me, it’s surely happening to countless others as well.
Until just a few months ago, I thrived as a freelance researcher and writer in the heritage and arts sectors, working on exciting projects with some household names in these fields. However, most of it has evaporated, courtesy of several medical issues that have left me trapped in the labyrinthine abyss of hospital waiting lists and backlogs. When politicians tout their NHS investments and waiting list figures, they fail to grasp the real-life impact. Allow me to share my story.
For years, my sole medical concern has been hypertension, a condition I’ve managed with medication for more than 15 years. However, in the summer of 2021, an endoscopy revealed a hiatus hernia, causing chronic acid reflux and imposing limitations on my bending and lifting abilities. This hernia also induces significant bloating, exerting pressure on my diaphragm. While I’ve adapted to this, it does curtail my activities.
Resurgence of childhood issues
Then, in autumn 2022, my childhood epilepsy, dormant for four decades, resurfaced unexpectedly due to stress and anxiety. During a phone call, I experienced a 20-second blackout followed, on another occasion, by finding myself disoriented in the middle of the road. This resurgence of epilepsy also brought with it speech difficulties, a devastating blow for someone whose livelihood revolves around writing and speaking. Alongside these episodes, I have been plagued by recurring bouts of dizziness, which have evaded diagnosis despite medical attention.
Treatment involved escalating medication and an eight-month wait for an MRI scan, followed by a frustrating cycle of cancelled appointments with a neurologist. My mobility declined steadily, culminating in a hospital visit near Christmas 2022, where I was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia. Emergency surgery was considered, but the surgeon opted to address my other medical issues first, placing me on a waiting list exceeding 70 weeks. The ensuing back and groin pains often leave me hunched over, exacerbating my mobility challenges.
Professional challenges add to the trauma
If that were not enough, my professional life underwent a seismic shift in the summer of 2022 when funding for my role as Centre and Programme Manager ceased. Despite nearly four successful years in the position, attempts to secure new employment proved futile. Consequently, I ventured into self-employment, establishing History and Heritage Yorkshire, alongside launching a magazine under the same banner. While I received support from Universal Credit, my earning potential dwindled due to mobility constraints, worsened by a bout of Covid in October. Financially, this translated to a significant loss of income, exacerbating the strain on my mental wellbeing.
I acknowledge that each of these issues, viewed in isolation, may seem manageable. However, their collective impact presents a daunting challenge. As political rhetoric touts the imperative of reintegrating individuals with medical conditions into the workforce, it neglects the reality of addressing these conditions promptly and effectively. The notion that such challenges can be overcome without comprehensive medical intervention is not just unrealistic but economically unsound.