Today I’m home sick. Literally and figuratively.
Struck down by the cold, I have been battling a cold for the past few days that much to my disagreement has gotten progressively worse… not better. This morning I woke with a fever and an almighty and painful cough from deep within. I felt absolutely awful – as you do when you can’t breathe through your nose and it hurts to breathe through your mouth, coupled with an almighty fever. As all children do, young or old, when you’re feeling less than your best the biggest comfort is your mum or dad. I instantly picked up the phone to my wonderful mother, who is an entire 23 hours away and played my sick overseas daughter violin. Off the back of her advice, I called the local doctor to register and get an appointment for today. Alas, you can’t get an appointment to see a doctor for around 3 days after registering. I burst in to tears. I felt nothing short of miserable and didn’t even know how to drag my flu ridden, raging fevered body out of bed to the shower, let alone know how to fix it. I just wanted to be at home.
111, the NHS help line was my next lifeline – they asked me a series of questions – which I swear took longer than it should have thanks to a nice combination of the English not being able to understand my accent at the best of times and an almighty snuffly nose and croaky voice. The verdict was out, the nurse stated I needed to see an emergency doctor within the next 4-6 hours and the only way I could do this was by visiting the closest hospital. She gave me directions – when she said closest, she didn’t exactly mean ‘close’. I had to get to N19 – from N4 – while feeling like I was on death’s door! The prospect of this made me feel worse, not better. I hate hospitals and avoid them and doctors clinics as much as I can – I’m more of an eat well and rest and you’ll get better kind of girl than a doctors best friend.
Horror stories of the English public health system rippled through my mind – but it wasn’t just them that worried me – I literally didn’t know how I was even going to get to the hospital, I couldn’t even get myself out of bed for a shower!
It was then that I felt a serious pang of homesickness. All I could think about was how much I wished I was back home in New Zealand. With my mum, at my parents house, with easy access to the doctor who has known me since I was born, my amazing parents driving me places when I was feeling sick and checking up on me to make sure I was getting better. But I had to snap out of it and realise that I wasn’t home, I didn’t have those creature comforts and I needed to toughen up, get out of bed and check city mapper to find my easiest route to the hospital – otherwise I would never get any better.
My sick-ridden journey to the hospital involved a lot of walking – in the 13 degree cold… and the 210 bus to Whittington Hospital, Highgate Hill. I then had to register at the hospital and get in line to wait to see the next available GP – along with every other sick north Londoner and his dog.
If there was a positive radiating from my temperature ridden forehead it was that it enabled me to skip the queue slightly. Within a 3 hour door to door excursion, I was back home, antibiotics in hand. Not at all bad NHS, not at all bad.
It’s funny what you take for granted when you live in your home country – little things like your family doctor, a car and your parents and family network when you’re sick. The creature comforts that today I seriously lacked and tearfully missed will never ever be taken for granted again. It’s just a chest infection and the flu – not the end of the world by any matter of means – but feeling sick is harder when you’re away from home!
A huge shout out to my incredible parents – Mum and Dad – thank you for always looking after me! I really needed you guys today; your medical journal advice (mum) your coffees (dad!) your cuddles and general fuss and care that you endure on both of your daughters even if we’re not sick – I miss you both so much. For now I’ll rely on the 7 day course of Amoxicillin and Penicillin along with my wonderful owls who are both being amazing and stand-in London mother’s. You girls are the best.