Dear NHS,

We’ve not been strangers, but I probably haven’t paid as much attention to you as I should. But listening to “Dear NHS – Stories To Say Thank You” by a group of celebrities carolled by Adam Kay, I realise how very few names I remember from our time together.

Our relationship has been on/off since the day I was born, though I hope you will forgive me for not remembering those times. I was born with a hair lip and cleft pallet – my upper lip and nose had failed to join and the roof of my mouth had not formed fully. You started to mend me even before I realised.

My younger years were spent on a loop between school, the maxillofacial unit and orthodontics – forever having moulds taken of my mouth with gorgeous strawberry flavoured gunk and X-rays.

When I was a teenager, I joined you for a holiday break to have bone marrow removed from my hip to help repair the roof of my mouth. I’m told it was the first time my parents weren’t allowed to stay in with me, although my mum was allowed to walk down to the anaesthesia room and wait while the drugs put me under. That was the last time the magic wonder cream was added to my hand to stop me feeling the needle going in.

My regular visits after that tapered off for a while and we drifted apart. It wasn’t till an apparent bad back evolved into a bad lung infection that we rekindled our relationship. A good few month of living with each other 24/7 reminded me how wonderful you are. We had our off days, but we got through it. I even had the fun of being taken by ambulance from East Surrey to St Georges in London with the blue lights going.

A few years of peace and then my body decided we needed some more quality time together, this time thanks to an infection affecting the sack around my heart. You took me in, mended my broken heart and set me free in the world again.

Since then, nothing as serious has happened…. Not counting badly spraining my ankle while running. I’ll take that one as a badge of being a proper triathlete now.

I’m still having an ongoing struggle with my mental health, depression and anxiety will be around for the rest of my life. Luckily, I can book myself in with you for a quick check up every so often and retune some bits and restock my toolbox to help me cope.

Knowing you are there – come rain, thunder, storms and COVID – it’s such a reassurance. Not having to worry about my bank balance before deciding if something is serious enough to go to a doctor about is a luxury I know we have in the UK and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I hate to imagine how much my medical bills would have been over the years if I had lived somewhere like the USA.

Don’t ever leave us NHS.