Hello. My name is Heidi. And I am not a nurse, a doctor, or a midwife. I am a screenwriter, and I write medical dramas. The blood I work with is fake blood, and at my place of work, when we say “Cut” we aren’t referring to a wound, or an incision, but simply telling the cameras to stop rolling. What we do is make-believe, while the NHS deals with life’s deepest realities.
One way or another, whether we work for it or not, we all represent the National Health Service. We literally carry it in our bones. It received us at birth, it vaccinated us, provided vitamins. It has been there for our playground falls and our traffic accidents, our appendectomies and our cancers. It will be there when we are old. But if some of us take from the system all our lives, others give, regardless of the cost.
The dedication of NHS workers touches millions of us. If it feels as though that goes unacknowledged, I – as one member of one ordinary family – would like to say this:
To the registrar summoned from his bed at 4am to perform the seven hour operation that saved my life – I will not forget you.
To the radiographers who treated my confused, 99 year old grandmother for cancer whilst holding her hand, and calling her by her name – I will not forget you.
To the grey-haired nurse who calmed my terrified little boy by asking what he was most afraid of, listening to his answer, and reassuring him – I will not forget you.
And to the Paramedics who spent two hours stabilising my mother so that she could make her final journey to hospital in an ambulance – I will not forget you.
One of you even kissed her on the cheek when you parted company in Resus. I will remember that until the day I die.
But what happens to the people whose work is other people’s lives? Who cares for them, and how do they grieve?
Remembrance is more than not forgetting. It is a commitment to gratitude. An active, ongoing respect for the workers who were there, and will be there, at our frailest moments, and in our darkest hours.
There are nurses in my family, and during Covid I saw the wheals the PPE left on their lovely faces. I saw their exhaustion, their determination, their desire to do what good they could. And I still see all of those qualities in action now, as the world picks up the pieces, as the NHS fights on.
The National Health Service is the greatest idea this country ever had, and the finest story it has ever told about itself. And it has been written not in words, but by the actions of its workers. Every shift, every handover, every hand held, the story continues, because it must. And it is a masterpiece.
I bow before it. The people should bow before it. The powers that be should bow before it, and give thanks to everyone who makes it possible.