Marie Louise McConville: My worrying experience at the hands of the health service
We find ourselves living in worrying times.
There's the threat of terrorism, climate change and Brexit to name just some of the bigger issues. Closer to home we also have concerns such as the future of the NHS.
With nurses undertaking forms of industrial action and strikes on the horizon, there is heightened awareness of the crisis in the health service.
Personally, it hadn't really affected me too much until I found myself in a particularly vulnerable situation.
As Type 1 Diabetic of almost 20 years, I rely on four daily injections of insulin to keep me alive.
Basically, my pancreas doesn't work (through no fault of my own) so it doesn't produce much-needed insulin so I have to inject it and if I don't, I will become increasingly ill, slip into a coma and could die.
A couple of weeks ago, one Sunday night, my insulin pen broke as I was injecting.
Believe it or not, I have had this pen since I was diagnosed. I've never been offered a spare.
In a panic, as per the advice, I phoned the Diabetic Ward at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
I called four times - all went unanswered.
I also called the Belfast Trust out-of-hours GP service.
In the end, we decided to drive to the hospital, go to the ward and seek help.
However, a nurse told me she could not help me and directed me to A&E.
There, a triage nurse was unaware of insulin pens and told me I would have to wait while sicker patients were seen.
Meanwhile, my blood sugar was already rising dangerously high.
The out-of-hours GP who called me back also didn't know what an insulin pen was and couldn't help.
In the end, I began to feel quite ill and with two young exhausted children with me, I was left with no choice but to leave.
The following day, I drove to the RVH and went to the Diabetic Clinic where a nurse found me the last pen in the place.
On returning home, I was absolutely drained, having been 16 hours without my insulin and having had to fight for something that is essential to keep me alive.
I could have gone to sleep that Sunday night and not woken up.
Unfortunately, when I sought help I did not feel that my concerns were taken seriously, which should not be the case.
This should not happen to anyone.
This is not the NHS we deserve and certainly, urgent action is needed.
After my alarming experience, I made a complaint to the Belfast Trust and this week a senior member of staff phoned me to apologise, which I appreciated.
Even more importantly for diabetics, I was assured the concerns I raised would be addressed.
If anyone in need of insulin turns up at a weekend, hopefully they will be given the medication they need.
With Christmas just around the corner, if you're on the look-out for things to do with the kids in the run-up to the big day, why not check out W5's new Christmas attraction?
Based at the Odyssey, those visiting Santa Street at AMAZE can wander along an enchanting, gas-lit lane full of vintage shops with wondrous Christmas window displays.
Visitors will see Santa's workshop, experience a bakery complete with the actual scent of Christmas baking, and see a post office with all the letters to Santa.
Visitors can also meet Santa and pose for a photo.
Further information at www.w5online.co.uk/whats-on/santa-street
With the season to eat, drink and be merry upon us, it's time to treat ourselves and our loved ones, so how do you fancy winning a scrumptious cream tea?
The National Trust has just launched its first vegan cream tea as research shows that more than three quarters of a million visitors to National Trust places have been by vegans.
Northern Ireland scone lovers will be able to enjoy this new addition at the tea-rooms at Mount Stewart and Castle Ward.
The new cream tea features a plain scone and oat milk vegan cream.
Rebecca Janaway, Development Chef, said: “We know from talking with visitors who are vegan that they are looking for more choice and that they struggle to find classic British comfort food, and what could be more classic than the cream tea".
I have two vouchers to give away.
Each voucher permits two adults and up to three children into the Tea Room at Mount Stewart for a Vegan Cream Tea.
If you fancy winning a voucher, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to email@example.com
Closing date for entries is 12Noon on Tuesday, December 17, 2019
(Q) Where does the new Vegan Cream Tea feature?
Normal Irish News Rules Apply
The winner of the Killeavy Castle competition is Angela Lowry, Belfast