Hodge: Lessons learned while ‘incarcerated‘ at KGH

Lives are at serious risk not because of the quality of health care…but by the absurdly short supply of help they get.

Dorothy had it right—there really is no place like home.

I’d like to pretend it was an ‘under (the) covers’ investigation of the inner workings at Kelowna General Hospital, but it wasn’t. It was a colossal reminder of just how precious yet fragile life can be.

Last week I was reminded firsthand that pneumonia and emphysema are not a great mix. I am thankful for my recovery so far but even more so for those who helped me get through it. While I am not out of the woods yet, it could have been worse.

I eventually made lemonade out of the lemons handed to me thanks largely to a quiet wakeup call from my KGH roommate. The short saga began last Monday just before supper when the first wave of chills hit me accompanied by a mild pain in the side. By midnight I knew things were not right. When morning arrived the pain was greatly increased; however, my family physician was not available until the next afternoon. I knew that would be too little too late for effective help. With a compromised immune system hanging out at a walk-in clinic or joining a line up for hours in emergency was not really wise. I called my lung specialist who agreed to see me early the next day.

By the time Dr. McCauley stuck his cold instruments of detection upon my skinny shivering body the pain in the left side was monstrous. He gave me his, ‘I’m very serious about this’ look and being a man of few words uttered the one I did not want to hear. “Emergency,” he announced and began scribbling in his note pad.

McCauley handed me my ‘go to jail quickly card’ and made an advanced phone call announcing my planned arrival. Faster than Dorothy could say Kansas I was laying in an emergency ward bed with more needles going in and tubes sticking out of me than I could count. McCauley was leaving no stone unturned or arm free from puncture.

Having not slept for basically two nights I was exhausted when finally admitted to a room in the cardiac ward (blood clots a suspicion). After an hour or two I finally drifted off to a much needed sleep.

Ten minutes later I suddenly awoke to an army of nurses moving me to another ward.

I was pretty much grouchy bear by the time I was wheeled into my new room. While grumbling to the nurse a hidden voice less than five feet away said, “Is that you Charlie?”

I was rattled. Turned out my roommate was Mike Motschko. What are the odds, considering the number of patients in KGH, that I would wind up in a room with a high school friend?

Over the next couple of days Mike and I solved worldly issues and shared some laughs. He was Mr. Positive about everything even though it was obvious neither of us was well. We continued reminiscing and swapping stories between his myriad of visitors. Throughout the entire time Mike maintained an upbeat attitude. Heck, he even liked the food.

Doctors and nurses came and went for both of us administering needles, tubes, pills, etc. and I knew by the conversations that things were perhaps gloomier for him than me. Eventually it was determined I had pneumonia in the left lung but Mike was still being diagnosed.

Eventually Mike was told he was moving to the penthouse suite, and while I jokingly wanted to know why he was so special neither of us really wanted to know.

Mike was transferred and suddenly I was alone.

After five days in KGH I was set free to go home and (finally) sleep, but Mike was still incarcerated. The day I left he popped in (Mr. Smiley in a wheel chair) and let it slip he was looking at cancer in the lymph glands and perhaps kidney. He was scared and upset but never uttered a word and seemed more concerned with me.

I simply felt ashamed for being so self centred and wimpy. However Mike, in his own positive way, inspired me to suck it up and remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

After my inside insight it is abundantly clear that we have a critical shortage of doctors, nurses and beds in our town to the point that no matter how brilliant our medical folks are, they need help. Lives are at serious risk not because of the quality of health care by the professionals but by the absurdly short supply of help they get.

I am in no hurry to revisit KGH; however, when it comes to the men and women who work there I only have praise. And if you do not believe me, ask Mike.

 

Kelowna Capital News

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