Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday NHS….
Happy birthday to you.

Today marks the 72nd birthday of the NHS, and there is a final #ClapForCarers event taking place at 5pm tonight to mark the occasion. I don’t think I have ever been so grateful for the NHS and what they are doing to keep everyone who contracts coronavirus safe and alive, while also attending to those with other illnesses and conditions. Everyone who works in the NHS, no matter what their role is, is a hero to me.

I feel so lucky and privileged to be able to access healthcare at source whenever I need it, and to book a GP appointment if I need one without having to pay. You could argue that we pay for it through our NHS contributions of course, but that is a small price to pay to be able to see a doctor more or less on demand and to have access to specialists, nurses and doctors when we need them. The NHS should be treasured, because I fear for a day that it becomes a privatised institution.

I’ve had my share of help and support from the NHS over the years – so have my family – and I can’t thank them all enough. We’ve all heard horror stories, and the system isn’t by any means perfect, but we are so lucky to have access to it. In 2013 I had incredible support when I was pregnant with my unborn son Francesco “Frankie” Enrico Ventura. When a severe cleft lip and palate was picked up in him during my 5 month scan I was referred within 3 days from the Worcestershire Royal Hospital to the Foetal Medicine Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham under obstetrician Professor Mark Kilby. When other problems were detected with him, I was supported every step of the way as I prepared to be a full-time Mum to a son who would need 24-hour round the clock care and support.

When my son was stillborn on 29 November 2013 the care and support I received at the Worcestershire Royal  Hospital was second to none, especially from the hospital Chaplain Rev’d David Southall who went on to become a good friend to myself and my family. I had genetic testing and so did my husband and family at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham when they found after my son was stillborn that he had a very rare chromosome duplication on his chromosome 15, and I know that would not have been cheap. I’m very grateful to the NHS for that and for their support.

With my son Francesco “Frankie” Enrico Ventura and my good friend Rev’s David Southall, Chaplain at the Worcesershire Royal Hospital. Rev’d Southall is baptising my son.

Today I am even more grateful to them for finally getting to the bottom of what was wrong with my Dad and diagnosing him with CASPR2 antibody encephalitis, which is extremely rare and only 45-50 people globally have been diagnosed with this particular kind of encephalitis, which is autoimmune. My Dad has had brilliant support from Dr Tom Heafield, his neurologist at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital and Professor Sarosh Irani and his team at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford who my Dad is now under due to the rarity of his autoimmune condition.

In addition to this my Dad is of huge interest to Dr Saiju Jacob, consultant neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and to Dr Mike Zandi, consultant neurologist at the Queens Hospital in London.  The only small gripe I have with my Dad’s illness and condition is that it took the NHS nearly 3 years to get to the bottom of it – my Dad was very close to being diagnosed with motor neurone disease with associated dementia – and he didn’t have either condition. But they got there in the end, and for that I am extremely grateful.

With my Dad when he was in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford in March 2020, just prior to lockdown, getting treated for his CASPR2 antibody encephalitis under Professor Sarosh Irani.

I can’t even begin to imagine what every single NHS worker is going through right now with the coronavirus outbreak and pandemic, I am in awe of each and every one of them for what they do for us. They deserve our most lavish praise and most outstanding ovations (as the quote goes in the film “The Greatest Showman”). How they cope day after day, night after night is incredible.

If my Dad was living in the USA, even if he had the best health insurance policy that money could by over there, he would NOT be covered for CASPR2 antibody encephalitis. Autoimmune conditions are excluded from health insurance policies in the States and he would have to thousands and thousands of dollars for his treatment despite having insurance.  This brings it home even more as to how lucky we are to have access to healthcare when we need it.

Of course, if we have the money or insurance policies we can bypass the NHS and pay to have certain treatments and operations privately – but the majority of us are not so lucky – and this is only going to get worse as the pandemic grows, job losses occur and people lose their businesses and livelihoods. We MUST treasure our NHS with everything we have got. If I had the power to grant every specialist, professor, doctor, nurse, healthcare professional and person who works for the NHS a pay rise I would do so in a heartbeat. It is scandalous that they are paid so little for everything they do for us.

So happy birthday NHS, and THANK YOU for everything you do for us, especially during these unprecedented times with the coronavirus pandemic spreading like wildfire all over the world. I treasure you all more than you will ever know. On a person note, thank you for all the help, support, treatment and care I and my family have received from you. You all have my deepest and utmost respect for what you do.

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Lisa Ventura is an award-winning Cyber Security consultant and is the CEO and Founder of the UK Cyber Security Association (UKCSA), a membership association that is dedicated raising awareness and educating small businesses, SME’s, large corporate companies and the general public as to the importance of cyber security. Lisa is also a thought leader, author and keynote speaker and has been published in various publications globally. She is fascinated by all things related to nuclear war and loves dogs, the gym/keep fit, the rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury, sci-fi, films and TV series from the 1980s, especially American soap operas such as Dallas, Falcon Crest, Dynasty and Knots Landing.