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LJ Idol - Week 2 - Uphill, Both Ways, Barefoot

When I was two years old, I was stricken with a bout of salmonella which almost killed me. When I lost consciousness, I was taken to hospital in an ambulance. Weeks of recovery and recuperation followed. I remember very little of it, most of it bratty incidences from the convalescence period - being woken up to have injections and be prodded, getting very irate when I wasn't allowed milk and trying to chat to the nurse who came in to change my sheets.

My mother remembers it all rather differently, of course, like you would when your toddler is whisked away in the night to a place miles away. These were the days before parent rooms and dedicated children's wards. Strict visiting hours, thank you, even if I was two. Toys weren't permitted and things have, thankfully, changed for the better.

I was incredibly lucky. I grew up under the National Health Service, which meant that everything was free. Everything, from the ambulance ride to the antibiotic tablets which I had to be coaxed to take. The follow up doctor's appointments. Everything.

When I was 19, the world had moved on, and when I came down with meningitis, I still received the best care which medical science could provide, free and gratis.

When I was 33, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My boyfriend (long-suffering) had to frog-march me to the GP, but the consideration was not financial. Diagnosis was reached after a week of this test and that and even now I receive, without any charge, medication and counselling which would cost me thousands privately.

It could have been so very different. Go back a couple of generations and my grandfather lost most of his hearing through German Measles as a child. His sister suffered Rheumatic Fever and, for want of penicillin, eventually succumbed to her damaged heart valves. Two out of the nine children in the family died. The big difference was that, prior to 1948, a simple call to the doctor cost money, a commodity ever in short supply. People very often would not call out a physician until it was too late, simply because they knew they could not foot the bill. Under such a system, I would now be dead or an invalid, like my forebears, cast out to take my chances in the Malthusian sea.

Those were the bad old days in the United Kingdom. Our system is far from perfect, but I have never felt scared to go to a doctor if anything was wrong. I can pick my doctor and I know full well that he or she is not only very highly-qualified, but similarly not scared of passing me on to physicians who are better qualified still, if needs be, in case I can't afford it. I'm actively thrilled that those less fortunate than me, asylum seekers and all, can benefit from the same very fundamental advantage that I do, the right and not the privilege of state-provided and world-class health-care without prejudice and without any further consideration than my personal welfare and well-being.