A Few Words of Gratitude

I had a bad fall while on vacation in California and needed the help of my family to fly back to Canada. I broke my wrist and fractured my pelvis, and have written about it in this blog (herehere, here, and here). My experience in negotiating all the people, facilities, bureaucracies, and systems associated with healthcare in both the US and Canada makes me very grateful for my personal support system. I am also very glad that I am able to communicate in English. It must be a nightmare for people for whom English is a second language or not spoken at all.

Hospital bed

It is very easy to become disempowered in a hospital setting, to feel obligated to go along with all the decisions made on one’s behalf, and to accommodate the routine practices of the staff. It’s not exactly institutionalization, but something like it. I know that I can ask questions of anyone, but not everyone feels they can do that, so I recognize the advantages I have in that regard.

The treatment I received in the US met my immediate needs but the medical personnel seemed to be overwhelmed by the requirements of the insurance system. That resulted in extraordinarily detailed documentation, multiple conversations about insurance, and discharge from the hospital as soon as the limits of my insurance had been reached. It seemed to me that while creating some efficiencies, the insurance system has also created a counter-productive insistence on unnecessary procedures and red tape.

The contrast in Canada was immediately apparent to me when I arrived back in Edmonton. After showing my provincial health card to the admitting clerk, there was no further discussion about insurance. I was surprised at how much stress I was relieved of because of this. I had not realized how much of a burden it had been until the weight was lifted.

View from hospital room

All of the healthcare professionals who treated me were knowledgeable, professional, and kind. I am grateful for all of them and am pleased to report that I am recovering well. I am seeing a physiotherapist every two weeks and now am back to almost full strength. Every day I can walk further and climb more stairs. My wrist and hand still need to be strengthened and to develop more flexibility, but they are much better than they once were. I can almost make a fist now!

The conversations that I had related to the fall and injuries are illustrative of the variety of concerns of the professionals I have encountered along the way.  Here are a few that have stayed in my mind:

  1. Ambulance EMT

Ambulance EMT: Which hospital do you want to go to?

Me: I have no idea.

Ambulance EMT: Are you with Kaiser?

Me: No

Ambulance EMT: Oh, good. We’ll take you to the nearest hospital then.

[When a person is affiliated with the Kaiser Permanente healthcare consortium, they are required or expected to use only their facilities.]

  1. Emergency Room Nurse

Emergency Room Nurse: Where are you from?

Me: Canada

Emergency Room Nurse (sneering): Oh. You have socialized medicine.

Me (surprised at her disdain): Yes. It’s great!

  1. Air Canada Customer Service Agent

Me: How do I arrange for medically necessary flights?

Air Canada Customer Service Agent: Contact your travel insurance provider. They know the system. They will arrange everything.

Me to Travel Insurance Agent: I need to fly back to Edmonton with my daughter-in-law.

Travel Insurance Agent (several days later): Have you booked your tickets yet?

Me: No. I was told you would do that.

Travel Insurance Agent: No. You have to do that.

Me: Gah!

[I found much confusion about what I could expect from the insurance company. Fortunately, my son, daughter-in-law, and roommate took over and got everything arranged on my behalf. I simply didn’t have the patience or mental clarity to do it myself.]

  1. The offending wall

    Family GP

Me: I need a prescription to claim the costs of rental of a hospital bed and a wheelchair.

Family GP: Yes. I have seen your records. What happened?

Me: I jumped off a wall.

Family GP: Why?

Me: Well it was only a low wall. I had been planting in a raised flower bed and jumped down when I had finished.

Family GP (smiling): Yes, but why?

Me: … I wish I knew.



      1. I imagine many hospitals are the same – overworked and underpaid and patients get in the way.
        This will make you smile.
        I had a hernia op several years ago and was loathe to stay over so the surgeon said it was okay that I was picked up after the op and taken home.
        I came out of theatre and with no bed arranged and was parked off in a general ward, unconscious, with nothing on but a thin sparse blanket and a thick dressing over my right groin.
        I came around during visiting time to a packed ward and my backside on full view! .
        I vaguely remember the surgeon passing me by saying: ‘Okay? Your wife and daughter will be along soon I’m sure?”
        90 minutes later they arrived. 90 damn minutes!!!
        They had all my gear, including cellphone shoes pants and wallet!
        As you can imagine I was not amused when Ems (my daughter) said : ”Sorry, I guessed it would be like when we take one of the cats to the vets.”

          1. It took a while …
            And once the painkillers wore off it was the worst night of my life pain wise.
            Everyone who I’d spoken to said a hernia op wasn’t too bad.
            For me it felt as if the surgeon had put his boot in my groin before he knotted the stitches.

            1. And all other bits too, thank the stars!
              I still get twinges every now and then but it is not something I could recommend with a smile to anyone.
              Even my recovery from a bike accident in my 20s was not as bad.

              But we all heal eventually. The body is a marvelous machine in its own right and if you’re patient, you’ll be opening the screw top on the bottle of scotch in no time!

            2. Well, I don’t drink hardly at all these days so flipping open a can of Coke or a milk carton with the injury you have would probably have me wincing for all I’m worth.!
              You just need someone nice to oblige you with a corkscrew to open the wine.
              What was the line on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? – Phone a friend?

  1. Glad things are progressing! The wrist will take some time. Twisting a doorknob was a day of great celebration for me!!!!

      1. Not silly at ALL…Celebrate All Wins…that’s a good rule to live by. and…speaking of Celebrate: Happy Birthmonth! 🙂

  2. I wish we had socialized medicine here.. but no one can get rich that way I guess *shrugs shoulders* I do know what its like arranging everything medical I do that weekly for my granddaughter whom by the way last week said to me after I asked her to have some patience *I need a vacation *

    1. I wish you had socialized medicine, too. It really is a better system. The big medical and pharma companies still make money, just not as much. Also, the population in general makes money because they get well and go back to work!

      I’m with your granddaughter. You both need a vacation. Come to Canada!

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