The letter you are about to read is a true written account from a genuine person who works in the NHS. A much loved Mother, Wife and Daughter named Helen Morrell-Priest.
It's a letter that Helen has given her blessing to, and has allowed us to publish her identity without fear of reprisals. A story of bravery and anguish, of the love and longing surrounding her and her close family during a time of communal experience and adversity. A time of hardship and strife, which for her and her loved ones, or anybody else for that matter - should never have occurred. Unfortunately, it did, and this is her story...
I am a qualified mental health nurse in the NHS, and I live for my family, my home, and my career. Unfortunately, my doctors have given me about 18 months to live. I have terminal cancer.
In the summer of 2017, I began to have problems with my bowel. After trying to alleviate the symptoms myself with proprietary medication, it became necessary to visit my GP just before Christmas of that year.
At this appointment, I was told that I probably had a slight bowel obstruction, which could easily be treated by strong laxatives. My stomach had become severely swollen, but I was reassured, that this condition would quickly subside once the laxatives began working.
After three weeks, the laxatives had taken effect, however, the swelling, and the pain had got worse. I called the surgery once more and saw a nurse practitioner. She told me to increase the dosage of the laxative and call back to the surgery if it didn’t work. It didn’t work. I called the surgery back, and again saw the nurse practitioner (NP).
At this appointment with the NP, I was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection (UTI). This was on top of my primary condition. I was told that the swelling and pain was due to this UTI, but I expressed my doubts about this, purely because the symptoms pre-dated the UTI diagnosis.
Two weeks later, I rang the surgery once more, and again saw a NP who told me to increase the dose of laxatives again. I was now taking an equivalent dosage of laxatives to someone who was prepping for surgery. The pain and the swelling continued.
Having suffered for three months whilst constantly taking large doses of laxatives, the pain, at times, became unbearable and was not getting any better. I decided to give up the medication and not go back to the doctor. My partner then rang the surgery on my behalf, and he spoke to a different nurse, who made me an immediate appointment with a doctor.
When I saw this doctor, she examined me and asked me what had happened at my review, and what the results were from my CT scan. I informed her that I had never had a review; nor was I sent for a CT scan. She sent me to hospital immediately, and two days later, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
At this point my partner and I felt shock and anger, understandably so. Cancer had never been mentioned, merely a blockage in the bowel. When I asked my new consultant about why this had never been picked up before, he said that the symptoms were too diverse to be given one diagnosis. The doctor who sent me to hospital for my scan had said to me that a woman in my age group, and with my symptoms, should have been sent for a pain review and a CT scan, as the first part of treatment offered.
I was in hospital for seven weeks whilst my symptoms were managed and treated, but unfortunately, the cancer had spread from my ovaries and womb to my stomach cavity and peritoneum. I was offered ultra-radical surgery, which would get rid of most of my cancer, and extend my life by five to ten years beyond my original prognosis, which was also for a five to ten years period. Unfortunately, the treatment was unsuccessful. The cancer had spread and is now terminal.
Helen Morrell-Priest BA (Hons) MSc MHN.
How can a country, purportedly the sixth richest country on earth, do this to its people? How can it neglect and maltreat its population to the extent that it's in a no better condition now than it was in the days of the workhouse over a century ago. The Tories bequeath to us abject acts of mass neglect and dereliction of duty, whilst contributing indubitable capitalist bounty to friends and benefactors. In the past nine years, it has brought about the rape of this Island Nation by shedding jobs, increasing homelessness, and brought about the dire need for food banks. It has embezzled assets and resources which belong to the people. It neglects a nation who still fund a health system as they have done since 1948.
The Health Service in Britain, is massively underfunded and understaffed with private companies now carrying out the work of our former NHS. Within the 'new' NHS England (part of Helen's working environment) costs have risen dramatically. Waiting times have risen, while staff numbers and wages have either fallen or stagnated. A sad reality under the stewardship of the Tory government is that more patients than ever are receiving the wrong diagnosis, and perhaps from extremely overworked and tired staff, and, as with Helen and her family have discovered, ordinary people are paying the price of professional negligence, with their lives.
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