Fabulous NHS saved my life

Columnist 'Jason Burke is a 46-year-old Technical Support Officer, lifelong Sheffielder, husband and father of two.
Columnist 'Jason Burke is a 46-year-old Technical Support Officer, lifelong Sheffielder, husband and father of two.
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October 1, 2010 was a day that will live in my memory forever. It was the day when I was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct.

The tumour (about the size of a tennis ball) was devouring my liver, I would be dead within 18 months.

This form of cancer is extremely rare, it accounts for 1 in 10,000 cancer victims.

The symptoms invariably surface too late for anything to be done and the fatality rate is in excess of 90 per cent.

In the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, my consultant advised me, my wife, and family that my death would be a slow and painful one, but they would try to control my pain whenever they needed to.

I tried to take in what they were saying but all I could hear in my head was white noise.

How can this be fair? I’m 43, why me? My kids, oh God, how do I tell my kids?

I also faintly heard them speak of a possible operation, to be possibly carried out within five days, that could offer me a lifeline.

A new surgeon had joined the team there and I was going to be referred to him for a second opinion, but this all was a blur now as all that I could hear was mine and my wife’s uncontrolled sobbing.

My CT & MRI scans were reviewed by this guy and thankfully, even though he offered no guarantees, he was confident that he could possibly prolong my life.

So the plan was put in place, I was sent home for the weekend to return on Monday for drains to be fitted in readiness for the eight-hour operation on the Wednesday, which would see them remove half of my liver, the diseased bile ducts, and my gall bladder.

Fast forward nearly four and a half years and I am still around to tell the tale.

The NHS surgeons and consultants who saved me are just a small part of what is a fabulous service.

People who knock the NHS tend to be people who have never really needed to use it properly.

On the day of my discharge from the Hallamshire my care team came to see me before I left.

I wept openly in front of them all and no words could express how thankful I am to those people.

Their response was one that I shall never ever forget: “That’s our job Jason,” they said.