9. I’m all heart

9. I’m all heart

“God forbid we will end up with a Canadian style health care system,” said the talking bobble-head politician, horror, fear and panic etched all over his face as he discussed the health care crisis with a reporter on CNN.

“God forbid we will end up with an American style health care system,” said the talking bobble-head politician, horror, fear and panic etched all over his face as he discussed the health care crisis with a reporter on CBC.

 To combat the growing unrest among the peasants the government hired me, at a fee of $14,000,000.01, to conduct an assessment on the quality of health care provided to Albertans. As I did not, at that time, need an extra 14 mil I declined their offer and the contract was instead granted to McKinsey & Co. a ginormous consulting firm.

 I thought this a bit odd as it seemed to me that if the government really wanted an assessment on the quality of health care, they would probably get better information by asking sick people who use the system.

 I believe it is this type of thinking that has prevented me from qualifying for a government job.

However, I did recently enjoy an almost two day stay as a guest of the government and when I returned home I found my inbox jammed with thousands of emails from concerned friends who had been unable to reach me during my incarceration.

 Rather than replying to each of them individually I wrote a detailed account of my experience and emailed it to her.

 Several friends have suggested I post the story of that experience in a blog and as my previous postings have exhausted everything I know, I decided to do just that.

 Here’s what happened several months ago.



I woke up at 3:00am on a Monday morning with a crushing pain in my chest and jaw, unlike anything I have ever experienced. I also had my regularly scheduled 8 weekly Remicade appointment booked for Monday so, in the fine tradition of intelligent males everywhere, I decided that the pain was probably indigestion and would go away. It didn’t.

 (For those not versed in modern pharmacology, Remicade is a powerful modern drug that is apparently made with the aid of protein from live mice and is used to treat illnesses like Crohn’s Disease, arthritis and excessive cheese nibbling. I can’t help it but each time I think of Remicade it conjures up an image of a bald, cross-eyed scientist in a white lab coat, gigantic syringe in hand, running around his lab yelling “here mousey, mousey”).

  I sat through the usual 3 hour Remicade infusion afraid to tell the nurse how I was feeling as she would have stopped the treatment and I would have to give up another 3 hours of my extremely important life to go back a second time. This was unacceptable for a person in my position.

 Finally around 2pm I decided to get checked out at a local clinic, convinced I would be sent home and my file marked “hypochondriac”.  I learned an interesting lesson. If you ever feel the need to go to emergency but are deterred by the horror stories of 3 – 5 week waits memorize this script and present it to the triage nurse. “I have excruciating, crushing pain in my chest and jaw that feels like a building has collapsed on me.” Apparently this sentence is a little known, secret medical code for bypassing long waits and receiving instant admission and attention from everyone on duty at that time.

 My heart then proceeded to fail the EKG gizmo and produced a few graphs that caused a large man with a pointy head to shake his head violently and look at me with extreme sadness.

 It was decided that the normal 6 lead EKG was not providing sufficient information and that I should have a 15 lead exam. Suddenly there were 5 people in white coats surrounding my bed and frantically researching a manual while heatedly discussing where best to place the EKG leads. When they finally had all 15 leads in place someone pointed out that the manual was upside down. They finally figured it out and the results caused Pointy Head to look as sad as he would if someone had eaten his lunch.

 By this time I was feeling fine and was ready to go back to the office. The cute, 12 year old physician on duty thought otherwise and decreed that I should be transported by ambulance to a local hospital to be seen by a cardiologist. We did discuss all the possibilities and I did say, rather loudly “there are many things that can cause chest pain” They looked at me like the village idiot had just shown up.

 Gimalle offered to save the taxpayers a few bucks and drive me over there but apparently she wasn’t wearing her paramedic uniform and they said no.

 My pride in memorizing and using that above mentioned magic admission sentence was replaced by a sense of futility when I realized I had set the perfect trap for myself. I hadn’t bothered to find out whether there was a need to learn a magic exit sentence. Apparently there is, and I have no idea what it is.

 By this time Gimalle had gone home to feed the puppy and I was left to fend for myself.

 So I had my first ever ambulance ride. Gimalle had taken my wallet and left me with $40. I offered all of it to the driver if he would turn on the lights and siren. He wouldn’t. That costs $41.

 At the hospital I was received like visiting royalty. I was immediately placed in a 5×8 holding cell with a screaming drunk on one side and Jesus himself on the other. A sadistic EKG technician visited me every 15 minutes and rearranged the contacts on my chest each time prior to readministering the test. Theses contacts are attached to your body with Crazy Glue so you can imagine how pleasant the experience of having them removed particularly if you have been blessed with an abundance of chest hair.

 After much testing, blood extraction and blood pressure measuring every 15 seconds it was determined that “you may or may not have had a heart attack and you need to be admitted pending a visit from a cardiologist.” I was particularly impressed by the “may or may not” part of the diagnosis.

 Around midnight a cardiology resident arrived. I tried negotiating an early release with her but apparently even underpaid residents can’t use an extra $40.

 I was then told that I would be spending the night in ER and that I should get some sleep. This was difficult to achieve what with my one neighbor threatening to kill any and everyone and the other constantly asking for a bottle of wine that he could then turn into water thus proving his claim.

 I managed to fall asleep at 2:29am. At 2:30 it was decided that I was sufficiently rested to be moved to the Cardiac Care Unit where I was tethered to the bed by many multi-coloured attachments each of which was connected to its own monitoring device complete with flashing lights and alarms. An automatic BP cup was placed on my arm and set to take a reading every nanosecond. The room also had forty 3,000,000 watt light bulbs in the ceiling. I was told to sleep.

Every 10 minutes a nurse loudly entered the room to make sure I was sleeping.

 In the morning I was told that I was to be transported (apparently we can no longer be driven or taken, only transported) to a different hospital for something called a Thallium test and that I would probably be undergoing an angiogram the next day.

 A Thallium test is a procedure whereby you are injected with highly toxic, carcinogenic radioactive waste and then placed inside a CT machine that is connected to a nuclear device. Both of these emit lethal doses of radiation while taking pictures of your heart. You are then placed on a treadmill which is set at maximum speed and highest elevation and are left to die.

 If you are among the few who survive this “diagnostic procedure” you are reinjected with another dose of the aforementioned radioactive waste and placed back inside the delightful radiation spewing picture taking machines.

 The purpose of all of this is to determine your level of cardiac disease so they can decide whether you need angioplasty, bypass surgery or whether you should be “transported” straight to a funeral home.

 The entire procedure takes about one hour and fifteen minutes. I was at the hospital from 10am until 4:45pm. It seems an important component of this test is the requirement for the patient to sit in an unventilated, windowless, magazine-free waiting room in order to experience the joyful smells that some humans are capable of emitting.

 I returned to Rocky View and was told that the cardiologist was waiting to see me. I was immediately suspicious as the previous 24 hours had taught me that it is not the cardiologist who waits for the patient.

 After an hour he could wait no longer and came to see me. He told me that the test results indicated a perfectly healthy heart and that I was free to go. He did say that it is extremely rare for a person presenting the symptoms I had to have no signs of cardiac disease. When I asked him what had caused the pain he said “there are many things that can cause chest pain.”



By now as always, I’m sure you are wondering what the point of all this is?

 In previous postings we have discussed how events in our lives have only the meaning we place on them.

 Here’s what this experience means to me.

 I don’t know if our health care system is good or not.

 I don’t know if we would be better off with a U.S. style system, if they would be better off with a single pay system like ours, if we would all be better off by taking the best of both and throwing out the rest, developing a new system or just scrapping the whole idea and making everyone eat an apple a day.

 But I do know this: Every day thousands of dedicated health care professionals, nurses, doctors, technicians, analysts, cleaners and many others, go to work on the front lines of our health care system. They do this day after day amid the chaos of cut-backs, staff shortages, political interference from babbling politicians, criticism in the media, double shifts, rudeness from patients whose long stays in the waiting rooms have corroded the parts of their brains that control politeness and many other stresses that take away from workplace enjoyment.

 They patch us, clean us, mend us and feed us. They comfort us when we’re scared and sit with us when we’re lonely.

 They are always there for us.

 They are some of the angels who walk among us.

 And I am so grateful to each of them.

 Till we read again.

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