Friday, 11 July 2014

My First Venture In To Private Health Care For Disc Injuries

On Wednesday, I met with a private doctor for a consultation about my disc injuries and sciatica. It was my first tentative step in to health care away from the NHS, and the most positive experience I've had with a Doctor in my three-years with disc injuries.



My parents arranged the appointment without my knowledge; I guess I should start with that. They've been threatening to get me private care for over a year... more like two, and for over a year and more like two I've repeatedly declined and refused, mostly because I don't want to inflict such a financial burden on them. And also because I'm as stubborn as week-old glitter nail polish. (Which is probably why they didn't tell me they'd pursued private care anyway, until the appointment was secured last week).

I can't say I was thrilled to hear the news. I'd told them 'no' hundreds of times, and they'd done it without my consent. It just made me want to bang my head against a brick wall.

I'm not ungrateful to them for wanting to get me private health care; I'm not; they just want to see me better, and if I had a child in the same situation I'd be doing the exact same thing. I just don't want to see them waste their money, which could be spent on far more important and greater things. My Dad should be using it to enjoy his new found retirement, for one thing. Private health care costs good money, and I don't want them to drain their bank accounts to get it for me. I'm especially worried that they'll spend their money only to discover nothing can be done, and it will all be for nothing... but that's me; I worry and over think everything. They've told me countless times that they've got this, and that they want to do this for me, but it doesn't mean I'm comfortable with it. I burden them with enough already as an injured person.

Regardless of my feelings, yesterday morning I headed off to my first appointment at the private hospital, with both of my parents in tow, trying to keep an open mind and low expectations.


My appointment was at a private hospital near Swindon, a small hospital that really didn't look all that different to an NHS hospital or large Doctor's surgery. There were waiting rooms with coffee machines; long carpeted corridors with doors leading off to a variety of rooms for consultations and specialist treatments; and Doctors and nurses promenading down the halls, going about their business.

Just off the first waiting room, was a small office where I had to go and register my contact details, and provide information like my emergency contacts, and if the health care would be paid by insurance of ourselves. We also had to leave credit / debit card details, which will be held for three months as a deposit. I guess that's in case we disappear off the face of the Earth, and don't pay the bills. The woman was friendly and it was quite informal. The only part I didn't like nor think was necessary was being asked for my marital status. I always feel judged and pitied when I have to say I'm single. She told me to stay single as long as possible, and then proceeded to chat about her son who is moping because his girlfriend has gone travelling. 

The registration took less than five minutes, and I was then sent down a corridor to another waiting room, where a couple of other patients were waiting. It was basically a narrow area about twenty feet long with a row of chairs against a wall, at the corner of two corridors that led to off to many rooms. We were a little early, and my pain was so high I started burning up, shaking, and feeling nauseated. (It wasn't nerves, I still feel like it a day later). The appointment was about fifteen minutes late, which isn't bad compared to how late some of my NHS appointments have been, but I was dying to get out of there for some fresh air.

I was called in by my new doctor, a friendly man, who I'd say was in his early forties. He was immediately very welcoming to my Mum and I, which helped to put me at ease. I took a seat, and was asked to tell him my story from the beginning. What happened, when it began, where my pain is, what treatment I've had, who I'd seen and that sort of thing. I was poked and prodded, and had to stretch forwards and backwards so he could see where it hurts most and what stretches cause the most pain, and I then had to parade around on my tiptoes and on my heels, so he could see how my legs were functioning.

He is the first medical person to acknowledge just how much pain I'm in, and commented on how much my body was shaking from it. I can't tell you just how much of a relief it was to hear that, after three years of not being taken seriously by the NHS. It's a relief to be told somebody believes you, when so many others wouldn't listen to the facts.


He was shocked by how little support I've been given, although he said it wasn't uncommon because the NHS don't like to spend money where they can help it. Which is fair enough; they only have so much funding, and a never-ending stream of patients, but it isn't right. He did say he was amazed I hadn't been referred to see a spinal surgeon or spinal specialist, and had just been left like this for so long.

He told me that there should be things we can try, but was honest about the potential expenses. For instance, a spinal injection would cost £1500- each!, and some spinal surgeries could cost £6000- although I'm sure that's just the price of the surgery, and doesn't include everything else like aftercare and room and board. (Everything is still cheaper than I'd imagined). I don't want to have surgery if I can help it, and he agreed that surgery should be the very last resort. I won't know for sure what my options are until I've had a new MRI scan, but unlike what the NHS have led to me to believe, surgery might be a possibility one day.

He wants to see an up-to-date scan of my spine, and automatically suggested a different hospital to visit for the scan, where MRI scans should be a third of the price than they are at this hospital. We didn't even ask about pricing, so I'm impressed he didn't want to make it as expensive as possible for us. He was very efficient; he immediately wrote down the hospital to call for an appointment (not that I could read his handwriting to remember where I'd be going, haha!), and then sent me off to have some x-rays done.

I headed over to the x-ray wing feeling hope for the first time in three years, and was waiting for no more than five minutes before I was called by the radiologist. I was taken to a changing room, where I was told to remove my dress and bra and put on a hospital gown, although I was allowed to keep my leggings, shoes, and glasses on. I learnt it's not dangerous to be wearing an under-wired bra or other metals during an x-ray, but they can get in the way of the area being scanned, potentially obstructing areas on the x-ray images.

I had three different x-rays taken standing up, and had to stand still while various technical-looking x-ray machinery was placed in the right places, and the x-rays taken. Again, the radiologist was very friendly, kind and patient, so it was a relaxed experience. It all took about five minutes, and I was then left to take a seat for another five whilst she left to check the x-rays had come out fine, after which I was able to go redress and I was free to leave.


I left with an open mind, and for the first time in three years, I left a medical appointment with hope. For the first time in three years, a medical person hasn't tried to patronise me, tell me to "just get on with it", or used my "young" age as an excuse not to help. He hasn't made me feel lazy or like it's my own fault that I'm house-bound, he hasn't made me feel like a hypochondriac, or dismissed my pain as nothing. For the first time in three years, I was listened to, taken seriously, and not ignored. I guess money really does make a difference to how you're treated in this world.

I can't believe how one ten-minute consultation could be so different to all the appointments I've had with the NHS in three whole years.

I've lost count of how many times I've begged GPs and specialists for help, only to be ignored, and told "to just get on with it" at every appointment.

I've lost count of how many times a doctor or physiotherapist used the phrase "you're young" as a reason why I shouldn't be in this mess, and as a reason why I should get on with it, or a reason not to help me. (News flash people, just because a person is young it doesn't mean they're invincible; bad things happen at any age, and everybody deserves to be given proper care no matter their age).

I've been told the pain is in my head, and that it's not as bad as I say.

I've even been told by my physiotherapist if I don't get myself better I'll never get married or have kids!


I had no idea I was living in 1952. Apparently my life would be over if I never became a house-wife.

I've had doctors say I shouldn't be on any medication; one took me off everything cold turkey, resulting in three days of severe withdrawal symptoms and an emergency call to the doctor at night. I've never been so ill in my life. My body was evidently addicted to Tramadol. And still is. Needless to say, I never went back to that incompetent doctor again.

I've come home from many appointments in tears, overwhelmed by their words, their attitudes, the lack of help, and the pain.

You could say, I've not had the best experience with the NHS over these last three years. And I know I'm not the only one.


Two day later, and I already have an appointment for that MRI scan- early this Saturday morning! It took me two and a half months to get an MRI scan on the NHS, but this time it was arranged in less than 24 hours with the appointment less than three days after I spoke with the Doctor! Now if that's not efficient, I don't know what is!

I'm already freaking out a bit at the thought of the scan. I'm claustrophobic and last time I had a panic attack in the machine, which pissed off one of the technicians. This time, however, I'll be having an open MRI scan, (which I made sure to ask about), which isn't as enclosed as the closed MRI scanner, so hopefully I won't have any reason to freak out when I'm in it. If I can see I can easily escape, I should be alright. I think I'll blog about the experience, too, for anybody out there who might want a patient's account of what MRI scans are like.

I don't know what the future holds for me, but I'm starting along this new road with hope; and that's something I didn't have three days ago. What ever happens, it won't be easy, but after three years of living in pain with my life on hold, I know I can get through anything that this new journey throws at me. I can't let my parents down, and I'm not planning on ever giving up! Who knows, maybe I'll be able to get my life back one day, after all!

8 comments:

  1. Yay, I'm so glad you finally had a positive experience! I can't believe some of the things your previous doctors have said to you, it's shocking! Sending lots of hugs, good wishes and prayers for your recovery!

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  2. I'm shocked to hear what you had to go through so far, some of those "professionals" should be ashamed of themselves imo :/
    I'm glad to hear you've had a more positive experience for once though, it makes all the difference in my opinion, even if a doctor can't find a "miracle cure" or anything just knowing they listen and understand is so important. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this will bring on some postive change for you <3

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  3. I'm SO happy things are looking up for you. I'm not at all surprised the NHS has treated you like shit. GPs and consultants have almost always been awful to me - it's the nurses who've been the angels. I hope they can find answers for you without surgery. x x

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  4. I'm so glad you had a positive experience with the private doctor, hopefully this will lead on to improvement in your pain and mobility in the future. As much as I appreciate the NHS I have also found they can be awful when it comes to long term back problems. I can't believe what some of your doctors have said to you in the past! So sorry you had to go through that. It's great you have met a doctor who knows what they are talking about now. xx

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  5. Such a positive blog post Louise, I can't believe some of the things I read about how you were treated before. Onwards and upwards, I really hope that things start to look up for you now. It's always going to be a long road but it sounds like these guys can actually help you rather than patronise and belittle you like the others xxx

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  6. How fantastic to have a positive experience, can not believe what the physio said, well can believe it - you know what I mean :). Good luck with the scan and hopefully you can have some answers this time from someone who sounds like they actually care and understands :)

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  7. I am so happy for you Louise I hope that you can finally get some answers it's a shame you have had to go private to get that tho xx

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  8. Stubborn as week old glitter nail varnish? you are stubborn! Oh Louise! as a parent myself I would do anything to secure the health of my children, the money is irrelevant, what is important is my children being healthy again, I understand why your parents did what they did, I'd do it, regardless of their consent (sorry!!) I'm so happy you have been heard and actually listened to and more importantly, you are being treated properly, there is hope here and I really, really wish positive changes come your way, you deserve it x x x

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