Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May
I had just completed a fairly vigorous cardiovascular workout last Wednesday morning, and began to cook up some breakfast when my chest and arms began to feel achy. Then my jaw and shoulders joined in, resulting in an overall feeling of discomfort, which gradually became intensely painful. After some ibuprofen, a rest, and a little time, the symptoms subsided completely. I decided I would lessen the intensity of my exercise from then on, and slowly work my way back up to the level I had performed that morning.
Later, however, lying in bed, the symptoms came back. All of them, more intense than ever, despite having encouraged them in no way. I tried to sleep it off but the increasing pain made that impossible. Stubbornly, I tried to ignore it all till my dog began to act strangely. He crept up to me slowly on the bed, ears lowered, and positioned himself on my torso. His head nestled into my chest, he began to whine softly and stared at me intently until I could ignore him, or the reality of the situation, no longer.
“Okay, Brando, I guess you’re right,” I said, probably, and gave him a scratch behind the ear. I knew I had to get to the hospital. After taking care of some business. I got dressed and headed downtown for an early morning meeting. I parked two blocks away, walked to the meeting, was told I was an idiot there, when they saw my condition, and was subsequently ordered to the hospital immediately. That had been my plan; I just didn't wish to reneg on the appointment with such short notice.
Struggling considerably by this point, I made it back to my car, and eventually to Victoria Hospital’s Emergency department where I explained my systems to the (rather gorgeous) girl at the desk. She immediately had me through the doors and undergoing a wide array of tests, performed by an army of highly professional and friendly technicians.
They hooked me up to IV, oxygen, and seventeen other machines I’m unfamiliar with, and a cardiologist came to ask me a few questions and to inform me that I had suffered a heart attack. He said an angiogram was necessary to decide if angioplasty or other measures would be necessary. I consented and asked him what time the next day would he like me to return to have these tests performed.
After staring at me a moment or three, apparently speechless, he repeated that I had had a heart attack, and carefully inquired if I understood what that meant. I said “Sure, but that was hours ago and I'm feeling better now, so I’ll just come back whenever for the tests”. I was half-joking, but I seriously dislike hospitals and would have been quite happy to avoid spending the night.
I spent the night.
Then I spent four more days and nights as a vast array of doctors, nurses, and technicians fought around the clock to prevent any further immediate attacks, then, once on stable ground, worked to help lower my risk for the long run.
This included an angiogram which showed severe plaque build-up in one artery, and another that was clotted completely closed. They hurried me at that point up to Western University Hospital where a whole new medical team fixed me up with a stent and managed to remove the clot in the other artery.
This was all within 24 hours of my emergency room visit. Then they kept me for a few more days to monitor my progress and allow my strength to build up before releasing me.
I’m not only amazed that these teams at Victoria and Western were able to perform the apparent miracles that they did, but that everyone, from those performing the most intricate specialized medical procedures inside my body, to those conducting the most routine scans and tests, treated me with so much kindness, compassion, and a genuine desire to help me. They all knew it was my own doing - too much tobacco, fat, etc. - but they didn't care. They only cared about helping me. It was an incredibly humbling experience.
What’s more astounding, is that all these professionals not only rallied around me with so much care and dedication, but that I’m someone who doesn’t even pay income taxes. I couldn’t have afforded to pay the guy collecting the trash from my (large, private) room, never mind the cardiologists and everyone else.
I’m not only grateful to be still living, thanks to these remarkable men and women at Victoria and Western, but so terribly grateful to be living in such an amazing country as Canada where what happened to me is considered standard. No one cared about my financial or social status. No one ever thought to ask anything about any of that. All anyone cared about was helping me, and they – every one of them – worked like hell to do so.
What a country. Thank you Victoria and Western, and thank you, Canada. I greatly look forward to eventually becoming a tax payer rather than a burden, to help ensure this level of medical care continues for the next generations.