Friday, January 14, 2005

Gaining Perspective

Throughout our lives we are faced with varying challenges that give us pause, forcing us to examine the things around us and carefully evaluate what is truly important, while at the same time we are able to see what is merely taking up "space" in our lives. I cannot imagine how many times I have heard people who have lost a loved one due to a sudden illness, or a tragic accident, lament the fact that so much was left unsaid. How much more difficult is it to grieve when you are inwardly tortured by things that "could have been", or "may have been" — it is the type of emotional stress that I would not want anyone to have to experience if they could possibly avoid doing so.

Only a few short days ago, my mother went into the hospital for an operation that was serious enough on its own, but became even more difficult as the surgeon discovered that there was far more "work" that needed to be done than was expected. What was supposed to have lasted about four-and-a-half hours lasted nearly seven hours. It is difficult to fully describe the range of emotions that have been associated with this situation, though I suppose fear, anxiety and — how much more, I can't even express. The worst part came on the evening that my mother should have already been moved to the Intensive Care Unit from the Recovery Room. For a short time I thought that something terrible had happened.

As I knew the surgery had started at around 10:45 am, I thought that it would be reasonable to call the hospital at around 6:00 pm to find out how my mother was doing. After speaking with a wonderful, friendly and helpful nurse at the ICU, I was transferred to an — interesting person, working for something called "Patient Locater" — or something like that (given what transpired, I'm not surprised that I am unable to remember the correct name). For some unknown reason, one that still makes my head spin for the absolute lunacy involved, instead of finding my mother (a task that I couldn't have imagined would be all that difficult, considering that she would be in one of either three places — ok, four: still in surgery; the PACICU [Post-Anesthetic Intensive Care Unit — an interesting way of saying "recovery"); her bed in the ICU (where I expected her to be); — and, for the sake of naming all possible places, the morgue (well, as I said, there were a lot of different emotions going through that weird mind of mine).

So, where did my new friend at patient locating send me? Well, I'm so glad you asked! Where indeed! Another lovely voice came on the line and, of course, she had never heard of my mother, nor was she expecting her to arrive in the ICU at anytime in the near future (not really what I wanted to hear, considering that I had been told that my mother was going to be in the ICU for at least two days after the operation).

Then, I was asked, "is she at the General hospital" — good grief. No! Wrong side of the city, for crying out petunias! The surgery took place at the Civic hospital, and I couldn't imagine that after this major procedure they were going to send her across town, to the ICU in a different hospital (well, it's one way of helping hospitals maximize the collection of fees by sharing patients, but its hell on the nerves of the family). As it turned out, my mother was not at the General, and it was only because the second person I spoke with at the Civic couldn't understand my mother's name when I gave it to her (the fact that I spelled it twice was probably too much for her to cope with, but that, I fear, is an altogether different story).

Fortunately, the lovely voice to whom I had been directed at the Civic, went to work to find out why nobody seemed to know where my mother was. After several, extraordinarily excruciating minutes, I was informed that my mother was just coming out of surgery and would be going directly to her bed in the ICU. The roller-coaster then took me towards elation and a sense of relief that left me feeling as though I had been beaten.

After a while I spoke with the ICU nurse that was taking care of my mother, and found out that everything seemed to be fine. She was being kept sedated for the evening, but everything else seemed fine. Having spoken with these incredible care-givers, nurses who work twelve-hour shifts with the most seriously ill patients, I felt comfortable in the knowledge that the care my mother was receiving was second to none. Everyone had said that the surgeon who performed the operation was a great doctor, and that the Civic was lucky to have him, but I have always known that while doctors are very important, nurses spend far more time with their patients and are the backbone of the healthcare system.

The nurses in the ICU who I have spoken with, and the ones who have been taking care of my mother are, without a doubt in my mind, the best care-givers that I have ever encountered, and having spent time in an ICU for pneumonia I can say that I have seen this from both sides. Nurses are so often taken for granted, and when budget crunches come because governments decide that investing in health care is contrary to the idea of investing in the future of our country, it is the nurses who suffer — and then it is the patients.

While the nursing staff at the ICU of the Civic hospital has demonstrated their exceptional talents, I must also say that the ICU doctor also added to my feelings that everything was going to be fine. She took the time to talk to me and answered any questions that I had, as well as showing a genuine concern for her patient. I'm not sure how much of that my mother will remember, but we will be able to assure her that she had been surrounded by a team of amazing professionals, each one of whom was dedicated to her care and well being.

At times like these I am reminded of how lucky we are in Canada to have a medical system that will provide such exceptional care, without necessitating you to mortgage your house in order to have an operation that is desperately needed. I am also grateful for the time that I have been able to spend with my mother, and that I have said many of the things I have wanted to, the most important being, of course, that "I love you".

While the idea that something unthinkable may have happened didn't, I realize that it is not about the time we don't have with the people we love that is important: it's about the time that we do have that counts.

Thank you to all of the Nurses, Doctors, Surgical Team, and all of the support staff involved with the care of my mother, Miriam Bordofsky.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool, man. As they say, you never know what youhave until you lose it.