Saturday, April 7, 2007

Weighing in on the health care debate

By all indications it was going to be a regular Thursday, other than the fact that it had that "end of the week" feeling to it, given that it was the Thursday before Good Friday. I suppose I was a little anxious as I had agreed to be one of the apostles (getting my feet washed by my pastor) at a mass commemorating the last supper. I had also arranged to meet a member of our reservations team for lunch at a new Thai restaurant in Port Hope. This person has been off with injuries sustained in an automobile accident last July. His small Honda was crunched by a tractor trailer on the 401 while he was on his way to work. Although he more or less walked away unscathed from the scene, he has sustained life changing injuries. As we were waiting for our lunch, we talked about his condition. He wants to feel "normal" again so that he can return to the life he had before the accident. I asked him how one knows what "normal" feels like. For me, my current normal involves aches and pains, good days and bad days. I tried to make the point that it may be possible that focusing too much on trying to be or feel "normal" can lead to a state of constant correction, or hypochondria - like trying to keep your car between the lines, instead of just driving straight ahead. As we were enjoying our appetizers - a delicious and mildly spicy soup and a spring roll, I was aware of a dull pain in my gut. I wasn't sure what it was, it felt like a little gas, or like something spicy trying to make it's way through my system - all things that seem "normal" in the body of a 48 year old with a less than perfect diet. We had a good lunch and went on our way, wishing each other the best and hoping that we would see each other again. I made another stop on the way back to work, picking up a few chocolate Easter eggs for some co-workers. When I got back to work, the pain in my gut was intensifying. I started to think kidney stone, although this was the last thing I wanted to deal with on a Thursday afternoon of a long weekend. I had things I still wanted to do, this was not the time for a wellness retreat! Within a half hour, I was on the floor writhing in pain, fighting waves of nausea, definitely outside of the realm of "normal". I contemplated making the 15 minute drive to the hospital, but decided to drive home instead. The pain intensified - some say passing a kidney stone is comparable to labour. I decided that the hospital might be a better place to be. The 15 minute trip seemed like an eternity, but I made it there in one piece. The triage nurse took down my details, and had me wait for a few more minutes, suggesting that a urine sample would be helpful. At that point, I couldn't think of anything but the pain, and my need for some kind of painkiller. However, a few minutes later, I found myself filling a sample bottle with a reddish liquid. I guess it was around this time that the pain started to subside. Another nurse came and took me into a room, where I was given a gown and a blanket. Now I was starting to feel a little silly, because the pain had all but disappeared. When the doctor came to see me, I had to explain that I had been in a lot of pain, but now felt pretty much like "normal". We agreed that if in fact I had a stone, it must have passed, and I was free to leave. Next morning, the pain returned. This time, I didn't wait for it to intensify, I went right to the hospital. I was admitted quickly and hooked up to an IV to re-hydrate me, treat the pain, and the nausea. I must have slept for a few hours, at which point I was taken by a very cheerful young lady for a CAT scan. The doctor came around and told me that I had a small stone, but it was down low, and should pass without any problem. He wrote me a prescription for pain killers and sent me home. Seven hours had passed, and I was feeling more or less back to normal, so much so that I thought I might not bother filling the prescription until I needed it. It turned out this would have been a big mistake, as the pain returned about 1:45 in the morning. I took some pain pills and urinated into a strainer (which the hospital had given me). There were a few little grains, smaller than a grain of sand - was this what was causing all the fuss? As I write this blog, my gut feels fine, but I know that this isn't over. Something in my diet, my genetics or my lifestyle is responsible for this condition. I will have to make some changes. In the meantime, I am voting "YES" for Canada's universal health care system. The people I encountered during my 48 hour ordeal were courteous and professional, the facilities were clean and modern and the result was positive. While I was waiting for the time to pass, I did make a list in my mind of the subtle differences between a visit to a spa and a visit to a hospital:
  • spas don't put sheets of paper down for you to lie on on the treatment beds
  • spas don't page the therapists over the P/A system
  • spas don't stick needles into your skin
  • spas don't leave you alone in your treatment room
  • spas don't subject you to the illnesses of others
  • spas don't have a sign in the reception area telling you to behave
  • spas tend to afford you a little more privacy
All in all, given a choice, I'd rather be in a spa any day. Too bad preventative health care, and visits to spas aren't included as part of our universal health care system, like they are in some other countries.

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