Suzy Snapper
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Making the Decision
Getting over the shock of the utter betrayal of our medical system has begun and I've started my Plan B.

Firstly, I will be going to Vegas. That's not a negotiation. I am going no matter what. It is just far too important to me.

After speaking to a variety of sources, I found that the injured surgeon is actually out 6 weeks. There is no plan in place, and no substitutions available so basically, the approximately 200 people this man had in the queue for surgery are now effectively held hostage by his situation. There are currently 8,000 people in varying stages of orthopaedic disability currently awaiting surgery in our local area from only a mere handful of surgeons. Given that there is very little money for operating room time and the average surgeon - at best - can only do 5 patients a week, the situation is less than promising.

Our medical system has been quietly deteriorating for some time. We were once the envy of many nations for our socialized medicare. I was raised on the story of how fortunate we were to be Canadian. My American uncle was bankrupted when my cousin was in an accident that left her a quadraplegic. My Dad would often remind us that no matter how bad things got, we would always know that our health would be cared for and that we would not lose our worldly possessions to have basic care.

I have had many occassions over the years to require medical care. While overburdened, I knew that if I truly needed care, it would be there for me when I needed it. I was shocked though, in December '04, to find that it may not have been the case. I was left in a packed waiting room for 6 hours, quietly going into shock from a damaged kidney and experiencing taccycardia while they waited for room to admit me. While I lay in the fetal position on a bench in the waiting room, periodically being checked for vital signs by a nurse, another lady with me suffered a ruptured bowel after having waited for 12 full hours. When I finally was admitted, I found my hospital bed covered in spots of blood but was still expected to occupy that bed. It was then that I began to lose faith in our system.

Having said that though, during this whole trial with my knee, I chose to be polite. Wait my turn. Do what was necessary. All the while, very conscious of the fact that while I am definitely having a difficult time coping, there are many others in worse situations than I.

Yesterday, after the initial bad news, I began to look into private care and was amazed at the underworld culture of our 2-tier medical system. It is an organized, professional world that fills one with hope and confidence. But it does not come cheap.

I will be going to the best orthopaedic surgeon in Vancouver, bar none. His services will put me back $5,000. No small amount, but given that my life is so limited because of my injury, not a choice. I simply cannot wait until May. It is already close to 8 months since the initial injury. A recent checkup did not offer good news. From having had a significant limp, let alone the chronic pain of this injury, I am now beginning to show signs of long term damage. Atrophied muscles in my calf and thigh, compromised lymphatic system and poor drainage (not to mention an absolutely HUGE ankle). At best, I will have a challenging recovery to get my leg back in shape once I am able to bear weight. At worst, I may still develop bone spurs or osteoarthritis from not having this taken care of in a timely manner.

When I first heard the cost of the surgery, I felt ill. I am not wealthy, by any means....and while not entirely poor, it was still out of my budget. However, last night, I had a "Pay It Forward" moment that still leaves me speechless. My family has banded together to pitch in the money. I have cried many tears over that in the last 24 hours.

A few years ago, I was entirely fortunate enough to have some stock options that paid handsomely. Enough to set up my nest egg, and a little more. I chose to help my family out of some financially tight spots and it was the most fantastic feeling in the world to be able to help them. I never expected anything in return, as that's what family is for and I was in a situation where I could do so. But that money is now long gone, and I have bills just like everyone else. After being laid off last year, I now have a job that pays much less than I used to and also one that does not offer benefits. That means my expenses have gone up a few hundred dollars just for basic requirements. Again, I'm not hurting but I certainly don't have a lot extra.

My parents called last night to offer their financial support. I have been proud of the fact that I have never asked my parents for one dime and it was a hard pill to swallow. But when my Mom said "Your Dad wants to do this. Don't disappoint your father.", I felt it difficult to say no. It still doesn't sit well, but I am entirely grateful that my parents and my brothers have done this to allow me the chance at this surgery. Actually, my words don't even come close to how I feel. I am in awe and feel at a complete loss. I never gave that support years ago to get it back, yet it is entirely wonderful that they could help me back when I need it most.

I see the surgeon for the consultation on February 16. With luck, the surgery will be rescheduled for 7-10 days after that. Fingers crossed, I could still be on the road to recovery by this time next month.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer trapped in a corporate buyer's body. Steel shopping by day, and freeflowing prose by night. One day I hope to have the nights become my days, but am intimidated by the sheer amount of people who share my dream. So I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
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