“The care and treatment I have received from the NHS and the support I have received from Unite has both been amazing, ” says 21 year-old Callum Stanland, a Unite member from Grimsby who began work as a laboratory technician last year.
Before then, as an activist within Unite Community, Callum worked tirelessly to oppose the coalition government’s austerity programme that included welfare benefit attacks and cuts in the public sector and NHS.
At the time he never suspected he might himself need its services.
Everything changed in December when he experienced such severe pains in his liver area that he found it necessary to visit his local Accident and Emergency Department at the Princess of Wales hospital in Grimsby.
Over the following week, state-of-the-art technology was employed as he had MRI scans, x-rays, ultra-sound and a biopsy before, aware that he may have liver cancer, he was sent to St James Hospital, Leeds where his worst fears were quickly confirmed.
Since then, Callum has been undergoing fortnightly courses of chemotherapy that require him to stay overnight at the hospital for four days. He has thus been cut off from his loving family and friends.
Step in what he describes as his other “brothers and sisters” in Unite.
“Unite members and officers have been amazing in their support, asking how I am and expressing that they care. As I was completing my first bout of chemotherapy a got a surprise visit from Len McCluskey – which was a big boost.
“Equally sustaining are the Unite Community members and friends who have visited me and sent numerous text messages and cards.
This appreciation for Unite is matched when Callum talks about the NHS and the staff he has met.
“It took under two weeks for a diagnosis and to begin treatment. That is crucial and really is a matter of life and death. The up-to-date equipment, expensive no doubt, is also essential if I am to survive.
The nurses, doctors and the back-up workers such as cleaners and porters are fantastic people. I worry as they are under constant pressure and the stress levels must be enormous.”
As a Labour Party member for four years, Callum is proud that the party set up the NHS on July 5, 1948. Despite his illness he has stuffed thousands of Labour Party election leaflets through the doors.
He has now been awarded a special letter-box trophy from the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham when the pair spoke at a Save the NHS rally in Leeds on St George’s Day (April 23).
“I was delighted with the award. I will be more pleased if we can get a Labour government on May 7 and they begin to reverse privatisation in the NHS. The Tories are committed to a private health care similar to the US insurance system, under which I have no doubt I would not have received any treatment.”
Callum adds, “I’d like to thank everyone for their consideration and help. I have not yet been given the all-clear and will continue to need support especially as I now require a liver transplant.”
Photo of Callum by Mark Harvey