Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’s health care system’

79686_full-smallerI started this blog with the best of intentions. I enjoyed feeling accountable to my readers. So, what’s happened in the past six weeks?


If I continue on with the idea of life as a journey, the cheesiest of metaphors come to mind: I shifted into overdrive, blew a tire, drove off the shoulder, slammed into a tree. I’m rolling my eyes as I type. But the truth is, in their own way, all of those metaphors apply, some in spades.

My life lately has been anything but calm and predictable. So much has gone wrong around me, in fact, that I find myself almost embarassed to list it all for fear people will think I’m fabricating it, or even worse, that I’m not quite “all there.” And if there’s one thing I pride myself on, hang onto by my teeth, it’s being “all there.”

Early in December, I wrote about falling in the tub and breaking my arm. Controlled person that I am,  I stayed calm.  I stepped out, dried myself off, took a photo of my mishapen wrist, dried my hair a little, plopped a bag of frozen peas on the bulging break, found a book to read while waiting in emergency, called my neighbour and asked if he could give me a lift to the hospital, and poured a coffee into a travel mug for the twenty minute drive there.

I wasn’t prepared to break my wrist, but I wanted to be damned prepared for my time in the emergency department!

When I arrived at 1:30, there were seven or eight people ahead of me, all waiting to talk to the triage nurse and be assessed. It took ninety minutes for me to make it to the front of that line, and another seven hours to be examined and treated, and during that time, I had front-row seats to a bizarre soliquoy being delivered by the patient in front of me. It was obvious that she, unlike me, was not all there. Still, I was a captive audience, and I couldn’t help but feel compassion for her.

She was in her fifties, and likely very pretty at one time. Now, her graying hair was long and unruly, her face pale and surly. She had broken her ankle weeks before and wore a hard plastic walking cast over her pant leg. Today, the problem was not the ankle. It was her other leg. She sat in a hospital wheelchair and imaptiently rolled it back and forth in agitation, occasionally running into the legs of the young woman in front of her.

“I was getting off the bus to visit my psychiatrist and the stupid bus driver pulled away before I was on the sidewalk and knocked me down. I’ve hurt my knee badly. Oh, God, it’s so sore,” she cried.

“I lost my job working in Dr. Martini’s office and now I’m on welfare and I can’t afford a taxi and I don’t even have enough food. How do they expect a person to live?”

Then again, in case someone had missed it before “I was on the bus and the stupid bus driver, etc.”

She went on and on about the things that had befallen her over the past five years, told the crowded waiting room that she’d had custody of her daughter’s child but he was taken away, told us how unfair her previous employer had been.

Eventually, she forgot that her leg was supposed to hurt. She got up from the wheelchair, walked to the security guards, loudly complained of thirst and started swearing about the long wait, about being alone. Someone brought her a can of pop and she started to cry again, big, sniffling sobs interjected by words of gratitude.

That’s when it hit me. Five years before,  she may have seemed like anyone else: likely still attractive, with a job that required intelligence and responsibility. Something caused her to lose it. That either began her downward spiral, or was one of the major steps on the way down.

It can happen to any of us. Tragedies and stresses can bring to the brink. Something within either tells us to hold on, or to loosen our grasp and allow a freefall. I have been hanging on.  When I list the negative stresses of the past five years, I wonder how I’ve held on and escaped her fate. Is it just that my fingers are frozen in  their grip?  Will a time ever come when all I’ll be able to talk about is the litany of things that went wrong?

I refuse to allow that to happen. I’ll concentrate on all that is good around me, because there is so much to be thankful for. I’ll try not to dwell on the stresses around me. I will voice them now, a purging perhaps, but I will not think of them again today, nor tomorrow: the elderly father struggling to master the use of a prosthesis, and being hit with pneumonia three weeks into his rehab; the husband who’s been too often been the victim of buyouts and restructuring over the past five years; concerns over our retirement; the bravery of a dear friend who’s been fighting cancer for what seems like forever; our sadness for her husband, our oldest and best friend; the sudden death of a beloved pet; the helplessness of watching a son’s heartbreak over a broken engagement and another’s uncertainty over a lifelong  career; and my own health issues, now more of a concern by this neverending circle of worry.

Yes, when I find myself obsessing over the things I can’t control, I’ll remember that poor woman in emergency, and I’ll think of my many  blessings. There is a fine line between us, but unlike her, I am not facing life alone. And that, I believe, is what will make the difference.


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