Like most folks I’ve often wondered how my life may have unfolded had I lived in another era. I’m fascinated with early history and admit to visualizing myself swashbuckling and exploring my way through the mysterious worlds of yesteryear.
The past six weeks has inspired a reality check appreciation for living in the here and now.
It’s no secret I’ve been battling major health issues since New Years when an impacted molar decided to go rogue and wreak havoc throughout my body. Hard to believe and frightening that one little tooth can cause such chaos. If not for the marvels of modern medicine (and skills of surgeons) I would be dead.
Admittedly there were a few times when I almost wished I was. I like to consider myself a bit of a toughie when it comes to withstanding pain, however I humbly admit that when said pain is in my mouth or head, I crumble.
I assumed, as did my dentist, that one simple bad tooth extraction would resolve the problem. We all know where assuming can lead to.
One extraction became two, then three, then four. The fifth session in the oral surgeon’s chair saw a drainage tube put into my chin and mouth to drain the determined infectious poison. Yet alas even that would not resolve it. After a battery of x-rays, ECG’s, bone scans, CAT scans, blood tests, pathologist reports, consultations with an infectious disease specialist … it was determined that major surgery on my jaw bone was needed. The infection would need to be scraped from both the soft and hard bone tissue.
Though I feigned boldness, I was terrified at the thought of major surgery, acknowledging that with emphysema and a compromised immune system going under was not a minor detail.
As expected my hurry up and wait scenario at the hospital saw me finally go under the knife 10 hours after being admitted. Some two and a half hours later I awoke in a bewildered state struggling out of the confusing fog of anesthetic. The amazing Dr. Bell had placed a titanium plate across the entire left side of my jaw including more than two inches of total bone removal. Six screws, two more removed teeth, and well over 220 stitches later I awoke with a whole new appreciation for life.
I spent the next six days recovering at KGH and while I can certainly find issues to grumble about my overall assessment is WOW. Blatantly, however, the prime problem is that staff, particularly nursing staff, are ridiculously over-worked, The majority of hard working and caring women and men nurses at KGH deserve much better treatment and employment conditions than they currently struggle through. It is amazing that more mistakes, fatal mistakes, do not occur simply because of the lack of bodies available to do the job.
While only confined for six long days and nights my self-inflicted sentence allowed me ample observation time to ascertain the critical care dilemma. Hire more nurses.
I was also surprised with what I perceive as a significant shortage of volunteer helpers or workers to perform basic chores such as making beds (never done except by Teresa and I) taking away food trays, and playing fetch for various items needed by confined patients attached to tubes, machines, or other restrictions. Having to hail a trained nurse for an ice pack or glass of water should not have to occur.
I am equally boggled that in today’s world of high unemployment that critical, skilled, high-stress professionals such as trained nurses or RCMP should be allowed or forced to work 12 hour shifts. That defies logic.
Because of such long hours and unnecessary distractions problems occur such as lack of communication between workers regarding patient care or needs, delays in needed medication, or slow response to real emergency scenarios. I am surprised there were not more serious incidents taking place during my stay than I noticed.
While few of us enjoy hospital stays there is a part of me that actually found the week enjoyable in a twisted sort of way. I met some marvelous and kind, skilled staff along with a number of interesting patients and/or visitors and family members. There are many I will not get to mention however a big thank you goes out to Doctors Bell, Naito, McCauley, Medford and Best, and nurses Analeis, Matthew, Shayna, Jillian, Nicolle, London, Kimi, Princess, Adrienne, Amy, Phillipa, Brianna, Dayna, Cassandra, Ana-Lee, Megan, Mendip and Melissa ( in pre-op), and porter Stephane and anesthesiologist Stephan.
There is a provincial election in mid-May and I will now be watching with a greater insight to see what Christy and crew have in the way of promises regarding increasing nurses in B.C. It truly is a critical issue.