July 29, 2009

Sunday: My mother had a stroke tonight. She and her partner Michael walked into the emergency department at Lakeshore General in Montreal just before 8 p.m. Michael told the clerk that he is a retired doctor and he thought my mother had or was having a stroke. The clerk told them they were busy and they’d have to wait. 10:30 p.m.: A nurse finally did an urgency evaluation and determined my mother may have had a stroke. While my mother and Michael waited politely, I know I wouldn’t have. I can’t help thinking of Malcolm Gladwell’sOutliers; he describes the younger generation as having a sense of entitlement to proper health care. Gladwell calls it entitlement; I call it the result of growing up with incompetence that is prevalent in unionized environments — like hospitals. When given the opportunity, people gravitate toward doing less and quality of work usually drops. I’m thinking we should offer a course to senior citizens teaching them how to cause a fuss when they receive horrible treatment from an incompetent hospital staffer. Monday: 1:30 a.m.: The emergency doctor finally evaluates my mother (5.5 hours after she entered the hospital) and orders a CT scan (that she doesn’t get for another 8 hours). I speak to the emergency nurse later in the day and she tells me my mother is resting and has slight numbness in her right hand and face, but the stroke seems to have been a minor one. Since the chances of another stroke are high within the first 48 hours, I pray for the first time in 10 years. I pray that if she has another stroke the nurses in the ER will catch the signs and act immediately. I realize I haven’t prayed since just before my father died. It didn’t work very well for me then. Tuesday: My mother woke up this morning to find herself completely paralyzed down her right side and it looks like she may have had another stroke overnight. She must have been scared although she didn’t show it, but then again maybe she wasn’t at all. Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen another side of my mother. She is one of the most fearless women I have ever known. She approaches everything with passion and makes the most of every moment. I know the stroke is a challenge and she will take it on without hesitation. I hope that over the years her character has rubbed off on me, and will continue to do so. Michael noticed that my mother couldn’t move before the emergency nurses did. I am beginning to think that some of Toronto’s striking city garbage collectors are secretly moonlighting in Montreal as temporary nurses in the emergency room at Lakeshore General. I looked over my mother’s file to find that the ER nurse simply took her pulse and made sure she was breathing. She didn’t wake her to check for signs of another stroke. I must find out if this is standard practice. My god of last resort didn’t listen — or she’s working in ways I’ve never quite managed to respect. Sunday: The day was hot and sunny. It was a long but beautiful drive through Algonquin Park to Montreal. The weight of worry got to me a bit. I cried, dried my eyes while getting gas in Renfrew, and proceeded on determined to create such a stink at the hospital that the staff will be filled with terror should they make another mistake. I remember how I used to hide behind my mother’s skirts as a child, so shy and afraid of strangers. I’ll remind my mother that she made me the woman I am today. I arrived at the hospital late in the day to find my mother propped up in her hospital bed with Michael holding her hand. She will have a tough road ahead, but she is alive and determined. My mother has a life filled with love and a wonderful man beside her — and for that I’ll thank my god of last resort. Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca

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