subtitle: (I really really hope Jez Can)
It’s coming up to a year since I lost my terminally ill best friend. He had cancer, which by the time he died it had spread from his bowel to his liver to his lungs. I wasn’t there when he died, or anywhere near enough over the two years he was ill. But, in my heart, I never thought he’d die. You don’t die at 33, or you very very much shouldn’t.
Now this isn’t a post for cathartic relief, really. I’m going to stop talking about me in this picture as much as I can, and instead, talk about what I believe. Not in a religious sense — I don’t consciously follow a faith of any kind, though I was predominantly raised around Christianity, with passages from the Bible and sing-along hymns throughout school. I do however feel that I have a morality that has been shaped in part by my experiences of faith, but also by the culture, behaviour and ethics that I have come into contact with over the past 12676 days — many of which were near the stones that Nye stood on to first propose the National Health Service.
This post is simply about what I believe is right. What’s fair and decent — which I’ll assume explains what I reject and believe to be unfair in contrast and by it’s absence.
During his illness, my friend, Rich had Chemo session after Chemo session, blood transfusion aplenty, surgeries, pills, lotions, potions and who knows what else by the time he died. But he didn’t directly pay for any of it. He couldn’t have.
Sure, he made enough money to cover his bills, save a little and still have money left to one-click on Amazon far too much. He was an annual pay grade increment or two ahead of me, but he certainly wasn’t rich. I mean, obviously he was Rich, but he wasn’t rich…
He first found out he was ill and was rushed into surgery a couple of weeks before his first and only daughter was born. He lived to see her enter the world because his lifesaving surgery was free at the point of access. No medical insurance forms to fill in, no pre-existing condition eligibility checks, just lifesaving treatment and care from people who get up everyday to improve, save and prolong life.
His life was almost never, if ever, truly comfortable after that point, but he lived on for another twenty or so months. He lived to see his daughter’s first birthday, her first steps, hear her first words, see her cut her first teeth. Nothing would ever be enough of course, but he saw things he wouldn’t have see if not for the @NHS.
I’ll always wonder if I was a good enough friend. If I should have been as angry when he annoyed me, if I should have been more sympathetic when he was suffering, or if I should have been tougher on him, motivating him to dig deeper and fight more. But I’ll never have to wonder if he had as much care as he could have had. But I’m mortally worried that going into an election where the #NHS, stretched to breaking point by austerity, is at risk of being snatched away from millions of people. You, me, Rich’s daughter — all of us.
Who knows how much his care would have cost? Hundreds of thousands of pounds, I’ve no doubt. When you break that apart as cold hard profit and loss, put it on a balance sheet, you’d have to ask, was it a waste of money? Was helping somebody see their daughter for year, a month, a week, a day or an hour more than their body wanted to let them ‘a waste of money’? Flip it around. Was helping his daughter see him for that much more time a waste of money? Keeping him alive so that she might, just maybe, have a memory or two of him to cherish for the rest of her life?
It’s naïve of me to say that I don’t care how much money it would have cost because any price would have been worth paying, but I honestly don’t care how much it was because it was worth it.
Tax me more — me, and people that can really afford it. Tax us so that the NHS is even better than it already is. Tax us until it’s better than BUPA or whoever else will come along to buy up the carcass if it goes private. Because the bottom line is that I want to know that when I, or anybody else is ill, that they don’t die because they can’t afford to live.
My moral compass tells me that it’s not fair that if you can afford to pay more for something that you should get it over somebody else when that thing is your health. That’s not meritocratic, it’s corrupt and vile. Have a nicer car, have a nicer house, have shiny things, live somewhere posh, have loads of holidays — whatever float’s your boat — hell, have a boat! But before you do all of that, have a human heart. Vote for and be willing to pay into a system that makes us all the same when we’re in need.
That, above all else is why I can’t not write this and hope that the NHS has a future on June the 9th. Fox hunting? Ivory trading? Dementia taxes, scrapped triple locks, more tuition fees, hard Brexits, walls for borders, PRIVATE HEALTH? What the fuck have we become?
What are we as a nation if we believe all of that is better than giving somebody new a go for a couple of years to see if what they’re promising can actually be done?
What happens in an emergency? After somebody with contempt or an absolute disregard for life, or just a mental illness that their insurance didn’t cover, decides to explode near you? When they rush you off in an ambulance, do you drop down the cue if you’re less well insured? Do you travel to the hospital in the slow lane if you can only afford the Bronze Care Package? Can you only be a little bit fixed depending what you can afford?
Can you honestly look your kids in the face and think that’s OK? When they’re broke because a they made a mistake with their ‘portfolio’, or their bank messed up again and goes and fails and their money’s gone so they can’t afford that great Platinum Cover. How can any of this be OK?
If you’re worried they can’t win, vote for them. If you don’t like his suits as much as you like policies promising fairness, vote for them. If you think they’re unelectable, vote for them. You have to — that’s how this democracy thing works.
Fundamental and absolute crux of the argument: For all our sakes, including yours at some point down the line when you expect it least and need it most — Vote to save the NHS! VOTE FOR THEM!