Jon and I had quite an adventure on Sunday night and, as a result, I don't really mind anymore that 20% of my paycheck is taken by the UK government in taxes. That's right, ladies and gentlemen: we spent from 9pm to 3am in A&E.
I know you're now worried about me; don't be. I'm fine. In the end, the doctor determined that I had a migraine which, it turns out, is a normal part of the human condition and not, in fact, the end of the world. The thing is, though, that I'd never had a migraine before and I had no idea what was happening. It was a very scary experience - one that I hope to never repeat.
Newham General is, late at night, populated by exactly who you'd imagine in a hospital in east London (not the hip part near Shoreditch and Hackney but the scary part out past Plaistow in E13). My favorite fellow A&E-er was the drunk man with bloody knuckles who alternated between aggressively flirting with the receptionists and aggressively trying to find out where his friend, who has been wounded in a knife fight, was being seen. The triage nurse was completely blasé about the woman repeatedly vomiting into a basin in the waiting room. We all ignored the man with tracks of blood running down his right leg who was talking to himself. It was an uncomfortable place.
However, I cannot properly express how comforting it was to know that while I was in the hospital I would never be asked for insurance, that my lack of private healthcare would not inhibit the service I would receive there, and that the depressing numbers in my savings account would not preclude me from attracting the attention I needed from the staff.
The triage nurse immediately gave me prescription-level painkillers for my head. The intake nurse took two vials of blood from my arm for testing. The doctor I eventually saw did a thorough physical exam. And, six hours after I arrived, I walked out of the hospital feeling almost back to normal and having never once been asked about my insurance status.
I know that there are downsides to socialized medicine, and I'm not such a blind liberal that I think that we should exactly follow the European model of universal healthcare; there are certainly problems with the NHS. But I do think that the last thing ill or injured people should have to worry about is whether or not they'll be helped as necessary in relation to their ability to pay for their treatment. And for relieving me of that concern, I have to say a big thank-you to the UK.
(Jon, by the way, was a total rockstar throughout the entire process; he demanded appropriate attention for me when I was too disoriented to do so myself, he stayed calm when I panicked about my body's betrayal, and he took care of me when I was beyond caring what a mess I was. To Jon, then, an even bigger thank-you.)