The feature turned out to be an award - I had been chosen by a panel of judges as one of their "Inspirational Women in Healthcare". This sounded very exciting, though I knew little more. There would be a schmoozy reception at Barclays HQ in South Bank, but as the days passed, I wondered what on earth I could have done to deserve such an honour. I'm "just a blogger" and this was clearly for CEOs of NHS Trusts, Professors who were experts in their specialities and transformative health providers.
I had arranged a meeting with Paul Maynard beforehand, who had been very keen to engage and to read the long, critical emails I had sent following his ill-judged speech at the Cumulative Impact Assessment Debate. This will have to wait for another blog, but I think Mr Maynard has been thinking very carefully about his speech and to his credit, may have learnt more in the last week than he had for some time.
I'd never been to Canary Wharf before. ISN'T it glitzy?!?!?! Endless pricey shopping malls, glinting with corporate success, towering phallic symbols of financial testosterone, glass elevators and twinkling fountains. The courtyards between the glass and steel monoliths to power buzzed and hummed with chi-chi restaurants and bars. So THAT'S where all the rich young things have been sitting out the recession!!
The evening was lovely. We were plied with free booze and teeny-weeny nibbles until The editor of the HSJ, Alastair McLellan, made a short speech and presented us all with a copy of the feature pullout that would be appearing in the journal today. And there, amongst the great and the good of healthcare innovation, was little old me, a double page picture of my smiling face beaming out from the glossy spread.
It was clear this was a "Big Deal" and I felt enormously honoured and proud to be included.
Warm and fuzzy, we rushed for the last train home from London Bridge, just making it onto the platform with a few minutes to spare. Dave rushed off to get me a cup of tea, leaving me appearing stranded on the platform. A nice man called Rory asked if I needed help to get on the train, which was just pulling up. I explained that Dave would be back any minute and he asked about my evening. Something made me tell him with pride about the lovely award and he beamed.
A train porter appeared from the open train door, immediately blew his whistle and announced that the train was leaving! I looked for Dave in horror, but he wasn't back! I shouted to the porter that I needed to get onto the train from my wheelchair, but he said "She has to get the next one" and started to close the doors. I pleaded with him - I just needed a minute to get on, and this was the last train I could get, but he insisted.
But what's this? A mini-revolution? An uprising? Suddenly, legions of passengers were appealing to the porter to hold the doors just for a minute "She has to get on, we'll help her" as I saw Dave running towards me, scalding tea sploshing all over his hands. Two strapping blokes put their bodies physically in the way of the doors and one even prised them back open with his body weight. A lady behind me started to complain loudly that this was "just bloody typical, we HAVE to get her on" and voices from within the carriage and behind me on the platform urged and pleaded until I managed to haul myself through the doors with Dave launching the wheelchair and himself on behind me in the very nick of time.
There were cheers. We really were "All in it Together" and for the second time that day I was desperately chuffed. So "thank you" to the lovely people who wouldn't accept "No Go Britain" on my behalf.
But much more importantly, thank you to YOU. I wrote this comment last night on Facebook after an overwhelming response to my announcement about the award. Hundreds had "liked" my status and left beautiful comments. It says everything I want to say to you all, so I'll re-print it here.
"Wow! I'm overwhelmed by so many good wishes and likes!
I was thrilled when they told me. I always wrote about health. all I EVER wanted to be was an authentic patient voice. Now that I have that opportunity I feel like the most blessed person in the world. I get to do the one thing I swore I would do, dreamed of doing!! It's remarkable.
But without you all reading and sharing and believing in the Spartacus Report and funding it trustingly and HOPING, I'd still be writing unanswered letters to politicians and newspapers and they would still be ignoring me. It might not be much, but politicians and journalists don't ignore me any more. Quite the opposite.
Tonight, the staff of the NHS honoured me in a way and it feels like a kind of closure. This has made me see that you can't know you're own impact. I marvel at it with Dave all the time. Every time something like this happens, I shake my head and wonder how. I'm still just writing letters and journals of my experiences, good and bad and writing the personal to help me make sense of it all.
Only now you all read it and most weeks, someone sends me a private message telling me that I kept them going in some of their darkest times. And occasionally, like tonight, I get to do nice glam schmoozy things too, which is always nice I'm honoured by your trust and support. If you keep giving it, I promise to do everything I can to use it wisely. Thank you all so much"