I wasn’t planning to start my Canada Day/Independence Day weekend in Emergency and the weekend on a hospital ward.
It was a beautiful evening. Lesley and I were out for a bike ride, and had just stopped at a northwest facing view point at UBC (the University of British Columbia). We discussed which route we would take to continue to the Galley Cafe at the Jericho Sailing Club (a public venue with great views). We elected to go down the path beside NW Marine Drive, as it would be safer, separated from traffic.
Lesley went on ahead, and I stopped to take a picture of the plaque commemorating the friendly meeting of Spanish and British ships 230 years ago in June 1772. Then moments later, as I built a little speed coasting down the hill and enjoying the view, I struck a pothole and went flying. BAM! I felt the wind knocked out of me as I seemed to land on my back and my helmeted head striking the pavement as I then skidded unceremoniously off the path into the grass.
Okay, breathe, take a moment. Collect my glasses, and the visor of my helmet. But I couldn’t stand up. Pain coursed through my back. So again, just breathe. My head was okay. I’ll be okay once my wind comes back. Try standing again. But the pain said no.
Lesley was already down the hill and strangers stopped by to offer a hand. As Lesley came back, two angels disguised as cyclists stopped. Dr. Katherine Gauthier, trauma surgeon and Adam Baker, ER Nurse with the Canadian Armed Forces. They didn’t know each other before, but my accident caused their introduction. They helped position me so that more serious spine damage wouldn’t occur, diagnosing at least broken ribs.
Lesley called for an Ambulance. The call was dropped by 911. She called again, confirmed that I wasn’t in immediate danger of dying, and I was put on a waiting list - turns out I was #48 in the que! A while later, Firemen from the UBC Station arrived. They had nitrous oxide (laughing gas) but aren’t allowed to administer it. Naloxone yes, laughing gas no. Union issues. I recall one of them was Adam, but I don’t recall the rest of their names. Anyway, with Adam and crew on the scene, Katherine and Adam B, were encouraged to continue their rides.
45 minutes after the first call, Lesley got a call back from 911. “Sorry we dropped your first call, do you still need us?”. Holy smokes, that’s a problem that needs solving. Lesley let them know she got through on a retry. Shortly after 8 PM (over two hours into our wait for an Ambulance), the Firemen said they were going to be replaced by another crew. Finally, just after 9 PM, an Ambulance arrived, staffed by two kind people, Grace and Morgan. They worked with the Firemen to get me strapped onto a stretcher and lifted onto an ambulance gurney.
Once at emergency it wasn’t long before I was attended to by nurse Katie, my shirt cut off me and Dr. Freeman checking on my status. An X-Ray at 11:30 PM revealed broken and fractured ribs, a CT scan at 12:30 AM added a collapsed lung to the prognosis. A follow-up ultrasound revealed no internal bleeding and to the disappointment of Resident Dr. Matei (Mat) Stoian, no baby (he joked that he could have been really famous, had he found one). Mat was born in Romania and grew up in Calgary, and I was his last patient in his Residency. About 4:30 AM, Mat inserted a tube to my pleural cavity to ease a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). He told me he was really good at the procedure, and I had every confidence in him. Shortly after, I was taken from Emergency to a ward.
The pain persisted, and being tired was easy, but sleeping was hard. By Saturday afternoon, I was still tired, but feeling a little more mobile with the most pain while transitioning from lying down to standing or back. On Sunday Dr. Valerie Courval removed the tube from my chest, and after yet one more X-ray to confirm the lung was okay, I was allowed to go home.
Here are some things that I was (I am) grateful for:
- Having a properly fitted bike helmet - it truly saved me from at best a bad head injury.
- The care of passers-by and the medical people who stopped.
- The care of the Firemen and the Ambulance Crew.
- The staff at VGH, nurses, doctors, residents and support staff. All wonderful.
- A bed that could electronically prop me up when it hurt too much to do it on my own.
- Extra strength Advil.
- Lesley bringing in non-hospital food! Seriously, Sodexo, can you make fish taste any worse!
- The prayers of friends and family in my community - thank you.
Here are some things that I learnt
- Hydromorphone, which was administered to me just before the tube was inserted into my pleural cavity, helped reduce pain, but also caused me to feel nauseous. So by Saturday morning, no more for me, and the combo of Advil and Tylenol, while not sufficient to eliminate the pain, was enough to get me through it.
- Our emergency response system is in trouble. The dropped call, then a 3 hour wait for an Ambulance in an urban location, and Firemen, trained in first aid, not being allowed to help. We need political leadership to address this. Until we can improve ambulatory response times, union politics must be put aside to allow trained Firemen to assist people waiting for an ambulance.
- Having multiple bed hospital rooms is okay, but being in an interior spot with only a view of curtains and no fresh air, is not conducive to feeling better.
- As noted above, with my injuries, being tired is easy, but sleeping isn’t.
Given my recent trauma, I’m going to invite Dr. Bal Pawa, author of the Mind Body Cure to join me for an interview in the August blog. I’m confident that you will enjoy meeting Bal, and learning about her book.