This I duly did and next Monday I will see a consultant ophthalmic surgeon about my rapidly worsening cataracts. Of course there’s nothing at all out of the ordinary about this in twenty-first century Britain, but I was suddenly hit by an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my good fortune in living in this place and at this time.
I think back to my mother who had to forgo her chance of secondary education because of the need to pay medical costs for her invalid mother. Before the days of universal affordable health insurance and the National Health Service, treatment of both acute and chronic ill-health could eat up family income to a terrifying extent, as it still does in so many parts of the world, if indeed treatment is even available.
I've been lucky enough to live under the care of the NHS ever since it was set up in 1948 and to have received potentially life-saving treatment free of charge at the point of use on several occasions, both as a child and as an adult. Yes, the NHS has its faults, sometimes big ones. What very large organisation doesn't? Nevertheless I have grown up knowing that when I really need it, it will be there for me. This security has been one of the foundation stones of my life and one which, like most people, I've taken almost entirely for granted.
So I will go to my appointment next Monday morning feeling grateful to be seeing a surgeon who will be able to give me back the clarity of vision I have been losing for years. More importantly I will be grateful for the even clearer vision of those who in the darkest days of World War 2 made plans for a National Health Service for all and in the war’s aftermath made those plans a reality. I have a lot to be thankful for.
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