We've all had our grievances and gripes about the NHS. It can get things wrong, from a hopeless lack of GP appointments to a waiting list longer than your arm, my arm and so-and-so-over-there's arm put together for any appointment not deemed urgent. And as Beadzoid wrote this week, it can get things badly wrong. But today, I just wanted to have a little rave because it also can get things right. And when it works, it works really well and makes a difference to the life of normal people.
This morning, we went to a group arranged by NHS community paediatrics in our area called 'Splish, Splash, Bounce'. I am lucky to live near a big teaching hospital with a huge and greatly respected paediatric department that coordinates community outreach exceptionally well. Today we started an 8-week course of hydrotherapy and rebound treatment (physio on a trampoline). It also has some other umbrella services that run alongside this group and if nothing else, is a brilliant resource of meeting parents in a similar situation. The group is especially for babies and pre-schoolers with additional needs, particularly those with physical disabilities from the milder end of the scale like us to the much more severe end.
We went last year, and whilst I enjoyed it and Wriggles loved being in the water, I always felt out of place. We hadn't come that near a diagnosis yet and as she was only a year old I had a horrible feeling that maybe I was imaging things and making a drama out of everything, using her prematurity as a shield. Last year other group members all seemed to have "proper" diagnoses and recognised conditions under the belt. They were all more of a toddler age and their parents seemed so more savvy-in hindsight because they had been dealing with this longer. This year, we are in that position and in the year that has elapsed we did get our diagnosis which in part has made things a little easier in that I don't just feel like a mad moaning woman with "a feeling in my bones" that something is amiss. We have found that secret world of multiple therapies, medical assistance and untangled some of the whats, whys and hows. In many ways, I am still very new and naive to this all. I am still at time struggling to accept, to find where we fit in. But this year, I felt much more comfortable and also more aware of things and in turn, more grateful services like this were on offer to us. Last year, a niggling part of paranoid-me thought they think I'm making it up, they're calling my bluff inviting us to special needs groups to see if I crack and suddenly decide nothing is wrong. Now I have researched more thoroughly, read up more, tried to access more things with varying degrees of success and accepted that my child needs some extra help, and I know all too well that services are greatly strained and really, you don't get offers of things that will not be beneficial! The group is number-controlled so the children don't get overwhelmed and so the physiotherapists can pay due attention to each child. As well as the physios present (in water and on trampoline) there are early years workers whom are like portage workers and people trained in speech & language and occupational therapy. This means that using signing as Wriggles does, does not stand out but is accepted and encouraged and there are people on hand to teach new signs. And some of the group leaders even have an idea what she might be going on about, rather than just waving her arms wildly whilst gabbling! Between the hydrotherapy and the rebound, there is a snack time which for us doubles up as feeding "therapy". All the adults know and understand oral aversion and quietly encourage and support, rather than shoving biscuits in her face and shouting "corrrrr bet you're glad she doesn't eat a million chocolate buttons to rot her teeth like my one!". They offer a mix of snacks to try and explore different sensory reactions rather than trying to be the most organic/healthy/cheapest/trendy buffet as so many of the children have feeding issues. They don't bat an eyelid at giving Wriggles an empty beaker so she can be like the children who can drink. I don't have to explain a thing. It is simply, bliss. Last year I feared I was just a bad parent holding my daughter back. This year, I know I am trying until I am blue in the face but that our road is a bit jumbled up.
I would be happy paying to access a group, so to have it on the NHS is icing on the proverbial cake. It is such a relief to know that there are services to help both child and parents. There are so many stories of children being failed by lack of access to things that when you have a positive experience, like this, it makes you very grateful. We have had our own share of care that ranged from scornful to downright unhelpful and so opportunities like these make up for it a bit. It is also a reminder that the NHS should not just be viewed as a luxury. It is the National Health Service, not an add-on. Without it, millions of people would be left to flounder in both development and health. The NHS is not just about hospital procedures or primary care trusts, it is about making the lives of people more comfortable and facilitating Independence. It is about support as much as treatment. And today, it got things just right.
....and in true NHS fashion, I just recieved a letter through the post for our next respiratory follow up. Despite our consultant wanting to see us in under three months time, we cannot have a slot until June and even then they can't gurantee us seeing our resignated consultant. You win some, you loose some...sigh.