Ten years ago at Christmas the tsunami was about to strike and we were experiencing what seemed like a disaster in our family. After three years on dialysis I was about to have a kidney transplant, thanks to my husband Keith. However a final scan showed that the kidney cancer I'd experienced in 1998 had come back. So the transplant was cancelled and I went to a different hospital to have my one and a half remaining kidneys removed.
Being in hospital at Christmas feels very lonely as of course the wards empty as everyone who can goes home. Life is suspended as you know it; families and friends are reunited but you are in your hospital bubble. Nevertheless the care, sympathy and pain relief continue every day and every night; and nursing staff continued their work, although they must have been missing their families too, to care for me, at times the only patient in the bay.
The Salvation Army came in, and I was even given a present. I did try to go home to see my family for an hour, but had to ask to go back to the hospital. Lying in bed and listening to the radio, I heard the gasps at the news of the tsunami and the realisation that some of the nurses themselves had families in the areas being hit. That stopped me feeling sorry for myself.
We often don't think about the long hours and dedication our nurses and doctors have to put in, but that Christmas really brought it home to me. And so when almost exactly 2 years later I was back in hospital, this time for the living kidney transplant, and got home (just) in time for Christmas Eve, I had double the reason to be grateful to the NHS, which isn't just for Christmas, but for life.