David understands the meaning of good value. Despite having private health care at his disposal, it was the NHS that he turned to in his hour of need, having become acutely unwell and diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).
CLL tends to take longer to develop than acute leukaemia and you may have it for many months or years before symptoms show themselves. Four years ago David was enjoying a relaxing Saturday afternoon in his garden when there were the first signs that something was wrong. He developed a bulge over his right eye after being bitten by an insect and after a trip to the pharmacist, was given a course of antibiotics. The bulge subsided and David carried on.
"The nurses were just unbelievable. Their dedication and kindness was like nothing I had seen before."
Some four months later and more swellings, this time on his leg, alerted David that something more serious was occurring. He attended the Royal Free hospital where he was told that he had CLL and must stay at hospital for a course intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. David recalls, “They told me that the CLL may have been lying dormant for a long time. Something triggered a response in me, possibly a bite from an insect, and my immune system went haywire”. David’s care was managed at that time by consultant haematologist Dr Kate Cwynarski. He recalls, “I was treated marvellously by all the team and all staff – the care was exemplary”. Following his treatment David began a period of ‘watchful waiting’ while the team monitored the progress of his condition.
In late 2015, David’s care was transferred to UCLH following a re-organisation of services which saw the creation of UCLH as a specialist centre for the treatment of blood cancers. Despite being stable for a long time, David’s CLL had returned and his new consultant, Professor Amit Nathwani, decided to try him on a new type of chemotherapy treatment. This involved a stay in hospital at UCLH on an IV infusion. David recalls, “Within half an hour of being given the new drug I had a bad reaction and I was shaking. The nurses were just unbelievable. Their dedication and kindness was like nothing I had seen before.”
"In a time when there is a lot of negative publicity about public healthcare, I will continue to bang the drum for the fantastic, caring, NHS!"
During David’s stay at UCLH he has spent time on both the haematology wards and time on the ambulatory University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre: “Although you are not there for a nice reason, the view over London from the haematology wards is spectacular. The Cancer Centre is also an amazing place – above and beyond any private healthcare facility. The food is also worth a mention as it really was very good, almost ‘cordon bleu!’”
Although David remains on treatment the future is looking positive, he explains: “My spleen and stomach were both massively enlarged, but they are back to normal now. I have a few more courses of chemotherapy treatment planned, but by January I hope to be in remission again”. David now chooses to look on the brighter side of his circumstances: “I’ve been lucky in many ways. I experienced no hair loss, no rashes and my appetite has remained as healthy as ever. I’m in no doubt that the success of my treatment has been to the professionalism and expertise of my doctors as well as the compassion and support provided by my spectacular, specialist nursing team. Amongst the clinical nurse specialists, that I have met, I would like to particularly thank, Claire and Barbara, who have been amazingly helpful. In a time when there is a lot of negative publicity about public healthcare, I will continue to bang the drum for the fantastic, caring, NHS.”