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In case you're wondering where I've been (as if, I know), a short explanation is in order.
A fortnight ago, I came over all giddy while driving, and decided discretion was the better part of valour - just as well, too. Having driven straight to the local surgery, they called an ambulance pronto (once all the rest of the people had been seen), and by 9.00am next morning I was undergoing open heart surgery in Oxford's John Radcliffe.
A new aorta, an artificial valve, and a carotid artery upgrade later (complicated by a chest infection which had me on life support for three days), and there is now light at the end of the tunnel, but you will understand why I shan't be out and about for a week or several.
The prognosis is however pretty good, all things considered.
Usually I use this column to rant on about something, so i thought you might be interested in my experience of the NHS at its very sharp end.
I'll keep it short: I don't have the energy for much more.

So how did they do?

The fact that I'm not dead yet suggests things are reasonably OK, but in more detail...

And now a long rest
First of all, I made the most crucial decision when the ambulance arrived and wanted to know which hospital I wanted to go to. Thank god I insisted on the JR.

I have had some mixed experiences around the local hospitals in the last ten years, but the standards of everything in the heart unit at the JR quite simply restore your faith in the system.

The second bit of luck that came my way (possibly because my case was a bit tricky) was that I got the unit's top man doing the surgery. To describe him as pre-eminent in his field underplays the word 'pre-eminence'). Indeed, the staff treat him rather like Aslan in a CS Lewis novel, and I can see why.

I will add only one thing: I wouldn't wish all this on anyone, but if you do get unlucky, insist on Oxford when the ambulance driver asks: no ifs, no buts.
Anywhere else, and I am afeard this might be a memorial rather than an update. And no, I am not over-stating things. The entire team is utterly brilliant.

Anyway, now you know why you haven't seen me for a week or three. And why you won't see me for another few.

Anything that was not utterly top notch?
Well, the standard of food is still pretty average, but when you're on your last legs, appetite is the last thing on your mind.

But in terms of clinical care and excellence, it has been a privilege to watch such a huge and committed team in daily action, saving lives (literally).

PS Don't take this personally, but I can do without the phone going constantly - or at least my kids can.

You'll soon know when I'm back on the wheel!

David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail

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David Croydon

Hilltop Consultancy
Business Advice Oxford, Oxfordshire