Grouse for the day

What are you grousing about today? Mine is political. You can stop reading now, if you so choose. I wouldn’t blame you. Mine is this: why is our UCP provincial government even considering a for profit health care system? I am very concerned about this. I cannot see it working. Our health care system may be far from perfect but it’s working much better than others around the world. It is one thing that Canadians are rightly proud of. We know that despite where people may fall on the economic scale, they will be taken care of. In all honesty I did not vote for this government and they have done absolutely nothing to change my mind since they took office a little over a year ago. In the middle of a pandemic our health minister has been belligerent, arrogant, and picking fights with the province’s health care professionals (and have done little for education, either).

Yes, I know this pandemic will cost us all. I am not looking forward to the economic fallout that is sure to come. I know our taxes will likely go up. I know services will be pared down. It’s worrisome. Anyway, that’s my grouse for the day. My apologies. I do try to keep it positive but I am tired, and I am especially tired of the combative nature of our provincial “leaders”.

Dialysis Days and Covid-19

Dialysis days are always fraught with the unknown. He can come out of a treatment feeling just fine, but other days he’s weak and prone to dizziness. Some days his heart rate is fine and his blood pressure steady, other days not so much. Today was a dialysis day. It was not one of the “good” days. He’s resting now while I write. That’s good. He needs it.

One of the added stressors to going out for treatment is the fact that the unit is on the fourth floor of the local hospital. Hubby is one of the so-called vulnerable. His health is fragile and under normal conditions that’s challenging enough. Then along came a pandemic to add even more layers to an already precarious existence. Although neither of us spoke of it we were both anxious about him leaving the house at all, but dialysis is not something one can afford to miss. However, the added stress was allayed somewhat when the powers that be set up a coronavirus testing clinic across town and far from the hospital. In addition, nobody can enter the hospital without being questioned at the door. A hand sanitizer is ever present and the public are commanded to use it. There is no choice given. That has also made us both feel a bit better.

So far, we have been incredibly fortunate. According to the municipality there are only four confirmed cases of the dreaded covid-19 here in our fair city. I do have to give a shout out to the mayor and councilors for doing a stellar job. The city moved fast to make sure the pandemic didn’t get a foot hold here. I am glad they took the precautions they did. Yet, as we all know, the virus is a sneaky thing and can lay in wait in people who display not a single symptom, yet can infect others. The coming weeks and months will tell the tale. But, so far, so good. Here’s hoping for continued good fortune, even while I am heartsick at the stories coming out of major cities around the world. My thoughts and prayers are with them all, especially the most vulnerable whom I identify with most closely. God help us all.

Warning: yet another post about Covid 19, a.k.a. the Corona virus

I am doing my best to stay positive, but being a bit of a news junkie and having so much time on my hands I find it next to impossible to stay away from online news on the computer and the overwhelming number of stories centered around Covid 19. Some stories really rip my heart out like the news out of Italy that they may be forced to make a decision on who gets life-saving ventilators and who doesn’t. Absolutely heartbreaking. The criteria seem to be whether you are (or were) in relatively good health prior to contracting the virus, your age, and other criteria, leaving doctors in the untenable situation of deciding who lives and who dies. These two stuck with me because 1. My husband I are no spring chickens and 2. My husband’s health. It is such an alarming and sad story.

Other stories make me downright furious such as a story I read on social media concerning staff at a popular coffee shop in Ontario cheering on the fact that the population of elderly citizens in their town will potentially be radically reduced by the virus. Apparently, the staff were young people and were joking around about the virus being a “Boomer Remover”.  Yeah, I’m not laughing either. I thought a lot about writing about this on my blog because I know these young people are in no way representative of the younger generations. But it really hurt me. I am, after all, one of the baby boomer generation. And, I know they are right, “the truth hurts”. This virus will likely wipe out a lot of older people.

As I said, I know these particular young people are not representative of their generation, but it makes me wonder if the elderly are getting the respect they deserve – not just because of age but because we are all human beings. And what about the sick and vulnerable? Do they not also deserve our concern and protection? Are people taking seriously the need for social distancing? Seeing images of crowded beaches in Florida makes me wonder. In a couple of weeks, I have no doubt that the number of people infected will jump tremendously because of the March break celebrations. It’s very frustrating. I suspect the number of deaths in Italy will pale in comparison. Perhaps it’s time government stepped up and made self isolation mandatory. In the meanwhile, there is little I can do but hope and pray. Stay healthy my friends, and stay safe.

Lessons learned about advocating for the sick and/or vulnerable

Many of you know that I have been on a journey with my husband through the health care system in Canada for many years now. I want to preface this post by stating that doctors and nurses in Canada are doing their very best within a health care system that has undergone severe budget cuts in the past few decades. Monies that have not been replaced. These cuts have played havoc with the ability of health care professionals to extend full and proper care to their patients. A shortage of both doctors and nurses mean patients are not receiving optimum care. Making patient advocacy an absolute necessity.

It became clear to me why patients need somebody to advocate on their behalf during my husband’s hospitalization about three years ago. At that time, he’d only been in hospital overnight when I received a call from him the following morning telling me he’d been released and needed me to come pick him up. It was the coldest day of the winter with temperatures dipping to around minus fifty Celsius with the wind chill factor. It was also in the midst of a flu epidemic that was keeping our emergency room crowded with people, and, no doubt, creating a bigger demand for hospital beds – hence my husband’s discharge. During the drive home he held his door open while he vomited on the pavement. I was incensed, but he adamantly refused to go back to emergency, I should have insisted.

Fast forward a year or so, it was another case of him being unable to keep food down and he was having trouble breathing. He spent a week in hospital but was released, still sick. It was an awful week at home. He couldn’t eat anything without throwing up. He looked like death. He spent every day in a zombie-like state. We were following the directions given us when he was released but he was getting worst. Finally, I called an ambulance to take him back to the hospital.

 He would be hospitalized for another three weeks. He had so many issues. One of which was a heart arrythmia and doctors feared he may have another heart attack. (He’d undergone a quadruple heart bypass a few years ago.) After much debate between medical specialists he was air lifted to Edmonton for an angiogram. Now, following an angiogram procedure the patient needs to lay flat for several hours to prevent bleeding. In my husband’s case he was put in a wheelchair and then flown back home. It resulted in a blood clot in his leg that caused it to swell to three times its normal size. It aggravated his health and caused his hospital stay to be extended. I should have been with him. Weak and sick he was in no condition to fight for himself.

In March of this year my husband had to be hospitalized yet again. Initially, I thought it would only be for a few days. He had fluid build up on his heart and lungs yet again – a condition he’d been hospitalized for previously several times.  I wasn’t terribly concerned – a few days on oxygen and he would be home again – so I thought. But a blood test revealed that his blood was very thin – a result of medications he was on that were not monitored. Special care had to be taken to ensure he wasn’t cut as he could bleed out very quickly. Red flag number one! After a few days in hospital a lung specialist was called in about his difficulty breathing. Apparently, he had been living with a damaged diaphragm, likely caused by heavy work he’d done when he was young. At any rate this resulted in decreased lung capacity. The doctor remarked on his surprise that this had not been caught earlier in one of his many hospital stays. Red flag number two! Then his blood pressure started dropping dramatically the minute he stood up leading to a couple of falls and scaring both my husband and his nurses.  Red flag number three! Then he started throwing up and experiencing acute pain in his side. After many tests and further investigations doctors diagnosed a gall bladder attack, but due to his history and with a heart arrythmia, it was decided that he needed to be air lifted to the University of Alberta Hospital – NOW! Our local hospital is small and does not have the diagnostic tools, or the number of specialists that are available in the city.

I was offered a free ride on STARS, the air ambulance, flying him to Edmonton once again. Naturally I said yes – I didn’t want a repeat of what had happened to him the year before, that quick shuffling him back home to save dollars. I was determined to be his voice and his advocate no matter what happened next. How often I would be called upon in the weeks ahead!

The problem, as I see it, is that patients are treated for whatever malady they are admitted for, without consideration of the overall picture. This can lead to dire consequences for the patient, if there is nobody to speak on their behalf. The first week in Edmonton was extremely stressful. Like most hospitals, patients are placed in the first bed available, in my husband’s case this was a bed in the orthopedic wing on the surgery floor. The University of Alberta Hospital is a teaching hospital, which means he had many interns and student nurses caring for him. Which is fine, as long as somebody is overseeing their “care”. 

One morning, after we’d been there a short time and doctors had brought his pain level under control, two bright-eyed students appeared by his bedside. “We’re going to get you up today”, one said. I looked at them rather incredulously and asked if they had read his chart. “Do you know that his blood pressure drops substantially the minute he stands up and that he’s fallen twice at the hospital back home?” I asked them. No, they did not know this. No, they had not read his chart.

 At another time I was reading the ingredients in his i.v. bag: sodium and potassium were listed. Off I went to talk to the charge nurse to question this. At that time my husband’s kidneys were failing and we had been told by his kidney doctor about the importance of limiting potassium and cutting salt out of his diet as much as possible. She told me the surgeon looking after his gall bladder had ordered the i.v. while the kidney doctor had ordered it stopped. She had two contradictory orders and wasn’t sure which she should follow. I explained the importance of keeping potassium and sodium (salt) to an absolute minimum in order to avoid dialysis and asked that the i.v. be stopped until she spoke with both these doctors. She did and the issue was resolved.

These are just two examples where I had to speak up on his behalf. He was so sick and so very weak. For two weeks he was unable to eat anything – partly because he couldn’t and partly because of the tests that required he not eat or drink beforehand. I shudder to think what would have happened to him if I hadn’t been there. How many patients have no one to advocate for them? People who are very sick do not have the strength to be fighting with health care workers, nor the presence of mind. In a perfect world this would not be an issue. However, with administrators facing ever increasing financial pressures, patients are often discharged from hospital the minute they can stand on their feet, regardless of how long. Furthermore, patients are not treated as whole human beings, but rather for the specific issue that brought them to the hospital in the first place, never mind how many other health issues they may be experiencing.

So, if at all possible, and I know in many cases it’s not possible, make sure your loved ones have an advocate if they are hospitalized, and even if they’re not. In Canada most family doctors can only address one issue due to rules and regulations regarding payment. It is a sad situation and one that should be addressed by the government. Until it is the weak and vulnerable are at the mercy of the system – and the system often fails them.

Cautiously Optimistic

We have past the one-month mark since my hubby’s surgery. If you follow this blog you already know that doctors had warned he could have a heart attack within thirty days of his surgery. I am happy to say that has not been the case

To add to that good news, his kidneys seem to have rebounded and though they are far from optimum they are at least pretty much back to where they were functioning prior to that awful gall bladder attack and subsequent major surgery. His kidney doctor has been keeping a close eye on him while he has kept him off dialysis to see how he does without it and so far, so good. We know that he will eventually end up on permanent dialysis – which we’d been told back in March would be the case when he was first placed on it. In fact, doctors told us at that time that it was highly unlikely that his kidneys would bounce back.

He is surprising his doctors and I couldn’t be happier about it! Still, we have to be cautiously optimistic as the issues with his heart, kidneys, and lungs remain. The damage caused by over twenty years of diabetes cannot be corrected. One day at a time, which is how we should live anyway, right? Nobody is guaranteed a future, but I am exceedingly grateful that whatever days remaining will not be spent on dialysis – at least not in the immediate future.

I sincerely thank all of you who have sent messages of support and for those who have prayed for both of us. May all your kindnesses return to you a thousand-fold.

On tenterhooks, but that’s okay. A.K.A. my husband’s scar

Yes, on tenterhooks, because, you see, doctors had told us during hubby’s previous hospitalization that he was too high a risk for surgery. He’d die on the operating table, they said. Or, he would suffer a heart attack within thirty days of surgery, due to the effects of the anaesthetic.

Then, as You know, he had another gall bladder attack and there was no longer an option. Surgery HAD to be done. We were between a rock and a hard place – either way he was a very sick man, if his heart didn’t kill him his gall bladder would. He survived the surgery and has been doing exceptionally well. His eyes are clearer and brighter, and though he remains on dialysis, he is still much healthier than he was a week ago.

He had to have the hateful thing removed the old fashioned way and now sports a very long scar across his midsection. It joins several other scars he’s accumulated over a lifetime.

Despite the risk of heart failure, I am so grateful that he had the surgery. And, let’s face it, with over twenty years as a diabetic he was always facing the risk of yet another heart attack. We have to keep it real, right?

Still I am a tad nervous. And yet, I want to kiss that new and jagged scar. It means he has the possibility of renewed strength because there will no longer be poisons leaking through his system from a diseased gall bladder.

Blessed be this scar! And may his heart be stronger and the scourge of diabetes weakened. This is my prayer.

A weird sense of Deja vu

We were only home two weeks, barely enough time to get back into the swing of things. Then it struck again: Another gall bladder attack. It was in the early morning hours and dawn had not yet broke through the night skies. My husband was in agony. I rushed him to the emergency room and before we knew it we were on board yet another air ambulance taking us to Edmonton.

As we waited in the emergency room at the University of Alberta hospital for him to be assessed the sense of Deja vu was strong. We had indeed been there, done that just seven weeks ago! I was tired and frustrated. We had been told at that time he was too high a risk for surgery. Instead they’d stuck a draining tube in and hoped that would be the end of it. NOPE!

To be fair, doctors did do the best they could for him at that time. But now, our doctor at our local hospital had told us that, high risk or not, it had to come out. I was terrified.

Fortunately he came through the surgery yesterday without a hitch and thus far is doing exceptionally well. However, we had been told during his prior hospitalization that any operation would cause stress on his heart that may not be evident immediately and that the risk of a heart attack would continue for up to a month or more.

Still, I am hopeful and relieved that his gall bladder is out and no longer represents a danger to his health. At any rate there was no other choice this time around.

Prior to his surgery I had been praying and asking God to guide the surgeon’s hands. I believe He did. An overwhelming sense of calm filled me as I prayed. I had also asked God to continue to him safe in the weeks and months ahead. I have faith in the Creator and I am so very grateful for the prayers of family and friends. I believe in the power of prayer.

It has been a very strange Deja vu, including that sense of complete calm and total peace, even in the midst of the storm, for which I am grateful.

Part time staff and the fallout of having no benefits

Recently I became very sick with what I thought was the flu – it wasn’t. It was pneumonia. A lot of people I work with have been dropping like flies, mostly it is flu or colds – it is the season after all. Many of my coworkers are employed on a part-time basis so they have neither sick pay benefits nor health care benefits such as a drug plan. It mystifies me how many organizations choose to save money by hiring part-time staff so they don’t have to pay for benefits-it forces people to come to work when they are sick and thereby infecting other staff members. I’d like to see the financial fallout of these decisions. It leads to more full-time staff having to take advantage of sick pay and other benefits. It leads to reduced productivity at work because sick employees do not have the same stamina as their healthy counterparts.  It just makes no sense to me at all. On a human level it just seems evil and wrong. Of course in the world of business all that matters is the bottom line. Still, I would think that bottom line suffers because of the decision not to grant medical benefits to part-time staff. This is just some food for thought. I believe people should come before profits and this is my take on it.

Decisions, decisions


I was raised in a rural area and have to confess that cities continue to intimidate me.  My husband has been having issues with his health for many years now and though I’d like to live out the rest of my life in the peace and quiet of the country I find myself thinking of moving closer to the city.

It seems these days that no matter where you live you have to travel for health services, unless you live in a big city. It takes a minimum of four hours for us to travel to the city for specialized health care, and that is if we do not stop for any reason.  So, we lose a good part of each day that we travel back and forth. In addition there is usually a fair bit of stress involved from highway construction projects to getting off on the wrong exit, although investing in a GPS unit has helped considerably. More recently I have also mastered Google maps on my cell phone, which is also a boon.

New technology aside, in a society with an aging population I worry we will all be lodged in cities, surrounded by a concrete jungle where high rise buildings block the moon and the stars. Now don’t get me wrong, there is much to offer in urban areas: theatre, concerts, museums, a wider selection of dining experiences and much more.  But for me personally I think I would die a thousand little deaths every day that I am unable to view the wide open countryside. Birdsong is very important to me – in the city it’s a strain to hear it above the sounds of traffic.  Quiet and solitude are as important to me as the air that I breathe.  Both of which are a rare commodity in the city.  Somehow we must strike a balance between the physical needs of health care and the profound spiritual needs of the soul. We must!

Syria: Into the depths of horror

To heal or harm

At this time of year horror movies and ghost stories abound as Hallowe’en approaches. But one of  the worse horror stories I have ever read is unfortunately all too real with no end yet in sight.

This past week Syria has come under the media limelight and not in a good way. Amnesty International released a report detailing the torture of patients in state hospitals. Read more