Tim Dowling: Free health care is still music to American ears – even slightly deaf | NHS

AAt the end of last summer, I went to see the general practitioner for my left ear: I had trouble hearing because of that. The GP saw nothing wrong, thanks to the bony prominences lining my ear canal – the result, as I understand it, of regularly swimming in cold water as a child. I knew them anyway; they don’t do much except block the view.

But the GP was concerned enough to refer me to an ear clinic. I wasn’t worried until I called the clinic for my appointment and was told there was a six month waiting list, after which I decided I was going to go deaf.

I thought it was my duty to carry that burden while the NHS worked through a giant Covid backlog, but during a band rehearsal later that week I was so transparent the guitarist m got a private appointment with an ENT specialist he knew. In the morning we rehearsed a song I had written, then I went on my date and returned to the rehearsal studio two hours later.

“I have a hole in my eardrum,” I said.

“We dropped your song off the set while you were gone,” the fiddler said.

I got home tonight around 9 p.m. My wife was watching TV.

“How was it?” she asked.

“They cut my song while I was lying in the hospital,” I said.

“It was a hearing test,” she said.

“You have to lie down for a game,” I said.

The next day I received a letter of introduction to a private consultant surgeon, which I ignored. I thought my audition was priceless, but it turns out it’s not when I pay.

And so it was, until I got a call from a mysterious number. I hardly answer.

“Is it Robert?” said a voice. Robert is my real first name, and usually a preface to bad news.

“Yes,” I say, turning to my good ear.

“It’s the ENT clinic,” said the voice. “We have an open date on Wednesday.”

“You mean this Wednesday? I say.

On Wednesday morning, I leave by bus for the clinic and return just before lunchtime.

“How was it?” said my wife.

“It was amazing,” I say. “Everyone was so nice. And we have to use all the machines.

“It’s a big day for you, isn’t it?” ” she says. It’s true: for an American, free healthcare at the point of use is always exciting. I always come back dazed.

“The doctor and I kind of got along well,” I said. “He wants to see me again.

“Is it good?” she says.

“We’re not considering surgery at this point,” I said. “But we’re not ruling it out.”

After eight months of waiting, health care arrived quickly: two days later, I received a letter informing me of an MRI scheduled for the following Friday afternoon.

“We’re supposed to leave,” my wife said. “I just bought the train tickets.”

“I could try to change it,” I said.

“That’s right, you could,” she said.

“It seems so rude not to agree,” I said. “I mean, it’s free!”

I don’t remember calling until Tuesday, when it seems even more rude. As the phone rings, I think, don’t forget to say it’s because of work.

“Hello?” said a woman’s voice. I explain the appointment of 5:25 p.m.

“He says I’m supposed to call to confirm, but instead I was wondering if I could possibly, uh, change it?”

There’s a long silence on the other end, beyond which I can just hear the bustle of a booming, overwhelmed community MRI center.

“Be honest with me,” she finally said. “Are you trying to change it because it’s Friday the 13th?”

“What?” I say. “Nope.”

“Ha!” she says. “I wouldn’t blame you!” »

“I didn’t even notice the date,” I said. “I’m not …”

“It’s okay,” she said.

“Honestly, it’s just the timing that’s hard,” I say. “I can do Friday morning.”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I won’t do that to you!”

She laughs for a long time. I imagine her leaning back in her chair.

“You know what?” I say. “If it helps, I’m more than happy to tempt fate by taking an unpopular slot. I owe it to the NHS!

“Haha! she says. “But seriously, Robert, I’m not going to let you. Can you do Monday?

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