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By the grace of God…

I am back, thank God, for He is great. In my appointment with destiny He answered my prayers and those of my family and friends and guided my brilliant surgeon’s hands to a successful execution of the acute part of my ordeal.

There is, perhaps, a long way to go and other hurdles to overcome. But, hopefully, the worst is past.

It came to me as a sobering experience. Some of us tend to be living a surrealistic existence.

We go about our business, chirpy as can be, yet do not know what we are carrying inside us.

When we learn our fate, we are washed over by two emotions.

The first is a feeling of denial and self-pity – why me? What did I do wrong?

The second is a feeling of perspective – I am not alone, there are so many others suffering the same fate, all too often worse. For the malady seems to be spreading so far that everyone you talk to has or has had some experience of it. Either personally or in the family or close friends.

The outcome is always in God’s hands, supported by those who care for us. In my case it is proving to be also an educational exercise.

I had never used Sir Paul Boffa Hospital as a patient and visited only twice to see friends.

Overnight, I became all too familiar with it and with the ability, focus and dedication of my onco-logist and the therapy staff.

I had never used the services of Mater Dei Hospital and visited friends and relatives there only infrequently. My previous surgical interventions had well predated the hospital’s arrival. Now I had to spend an intensive week there, travelling from pre-op to the operating theatre, the intensive therapy unit and surgical wards 2 and 5, particularly the latter.

I came away feeling blessed despite my pain, and full of praise. I have always admired the quality of our medical and paramedical staff, being also in a position to compare it with treatment I received abroad years ago.

I must say the pressure of Mater Dei has not in any way diminished the quality I so admire. The service I received in recent days was exceptional, no more than that of other patients, all cared for with constant diligence by those concerned at each stage of one’s treatment and recuperation.

We debate Mater Dei services endlessly. We complain about the waiting time for non-urgent appointments, at the emergency unit, and the scarcity of beds relative to demand. We should always balance those complaints with adequate appreciation of the highly skilled, professional attention given to in-house patients. The Mater Dei staff deserves no less.

Such thoughts also brought out the analyst in me. There is a problem with our medical services, net of the fine elements in them, and it has surpassed original planning. A new master plan is required. It has to take into account demographical projections, of course. That is the start. But it also has to give due attention to cultural changes.

Recourse to the emergency unit has become too common. Instead of being hospital-apprehensive, some people look at a visit to the unit as some sort of jaunt when they could be getting more immediate relief from their GPs.

Reducing evening services at the health centres has not helped, but the cultural change still needs to be tackled with sound education as well as an awareness of the demands from older people.

There is a lot to be done and political opinion on how will not converge easily. But it should recognise all the factors in play, as is at times done. They will be there, whoever is running the country.

• I grew well enough to follow Malta in fresh turmoil.

For what my opinion is worth, I believe the Dalligate affair started as straightforward lobbying, pounced upon by calculating tobacco interests, compounded by the alleged and extraordinary greed of the so-called lobbyist.

One would be mad to suggest that John Dalli would be party to such a demand.

One thing I don’t understand is the reliance on lobbying in EU Commission affairs.

Lobbying is not the nicest of words or purest of practices. It should be done away with. The EU needs to get its act together.

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