Ontario celebrated its first Family Day on Monday, February 18th 2008. It’s a well earned break from the usually dreary February blahs. This year it was a break from the particularily snowy winter. I decided to spend the day relaxing and went out with a friends for brunch and to check out the Eaton Centre downtown. And that’s when it all sort of went south.
I had a bad cold a little while ago and was feeling much better, except for the recurring burning sensation in my chest. It felt like indigestion or heartburn. The pharmacist recommended some tablets which helped for while, but the pain returned. On Monday, as I prepared to go out for brunch I also felt a strange twitching feeling in my chest. Not in my heart, but in the muscle of my chest. Strange.
We went out for a great brunch at Fran’s Restuarant, a Toronto landmark, and then walked over to the Eaton Centre which is nearby. While there, the ongoing burning sensation and twitching were now accompanied with a feeling of being light-headed. I quickly came to the realization that this was not good. We retraced our steps, past Fran’s to nearby St. Michael’s Hospital.
In a very short while I was admitted to the E.R. where I was sure the doctor would say it was just gas, and that I should take a pill and go home. Well it didn’t exactly take place that way. The doctor did say he was pretty sure it was not a heart attack, but that at my age (I cringed) it was better to be sure. He ordered some blood work that would look for enzymes that reveal a heart attack. One such test now and one at 9:00 p.m. Ugh!! I hadn’t planned on staying that long! He also ordered an ECG and X-Ray. Before long I was hooked up to every machine imaginable and monitered to an inch of my life! I must admit I felt safe. If anything bad was happening, I was now in the right place.
To make a long story short, they found no evidence of a heart attack. Thank God! It still may be a case of some blockage or possibly pain caused as an effect of all the coughing with my cold. I’m seeing my physician on Thursday for follow-up.
Now the reason I am sharing all this with you is not so much the medical report but my experience of being in hospital. You see, this was pretty much my first time. I’ve never been sick or needing to be in hospital. St. Michael’s Hospital, founded by the amazing Sisters of St. Joseph, is in the down-town core of Toronto. There are lots of homeless and poor in the community. The hospital attracts drug addicts, the mentally ill and the occasional friar (not always easy to tell apart!) During my time at St. Mike’s I was amazed by the quality of care that I received and the kindness with which it was given. What was even more outstanding was that everyone there received the same care. I’m not saying that everything is perfect there all the time. But, I can say quite clearly, that the time I spent at St. Mike’s I witnessed care and compassion that does honour to the staff and to the hospital.
Let me give you an example. There was a man near me who seemed to have some mental health issues. Ok, that’s putting it mildly; he was as crazy as a loon. He did a lot of yelling and cursing and just being a pain. At one point we heard some rather strange bodily sounds, some crash and bang, and there he was in the hall, his IV pulled out and blood pouring all over the floor and walls. He had also soiled himself, the bed and the area. The odour was disgusting.
The nurse came quickly and the poor woman didn’t know where to start. She called for help and just dove in to help him. Now I was stuck in that bed of mine, attached to all the machines… and I wanted to run because it smelled so bad. The nurse didn’t even flinch. Now, I don’t know what was going on in her head, but on the outside she was together. There was not a word of anger or frustration, but only care and concern for the man. The same was true of the staff that came to take him down for a shower or the ones who cleaned the cubicle in the E.R.
What I witnessed at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto was a compassion that was of the calibre of Mother Theresa or Damien of Molokai. I’m sure the nurse in question would not agree, but I saw it with my own eyes. I left the hospital late at night praising God for a relatively clean bill of health. I left the hospital grateful for our Canadian health system which took such good care of me, and not just me, but the poor and powerless. I left the hospital humbled by the courage and generosity of nurses, doctors and staff at St. Mikes. They gave me quite an example of what Family is all about. Happy Family Day.