Fractured Health Care Delivery

I have been observing lately, and at times very close to home, that lapses in judgement happen to everyone. I have my own list. For some of these incidences on my list, there were no good choices to be made, so it is down to wondering if a different choice might have been a better one. For most lapses though, hindsight allows me to consider alternative options that might have been better choices on my part, if not in outcome, then at least for my conscience. My feeling, at this point in my life, is that I am better to go with what my conscience allows, rather than what others expect, or what seems logical at the time.

It is never a good idea to give other people’s opinions, or your head, full reign over your decisions and actions. A balance must be worked out between your heart and your head, and often this requires hard work.

The weather has turned cold. The dawn was sunless. The weather people are predicting snow squalls with serious visibility issues for driving this afternoon, which should be in full swing as Attila makes his commute home from work. It looks like the snow shovel might come out for the first time since last March.

Plans this week have not worked out well. A night out was cancelled due to warnings of imminent snow squalls that did not materialize. My plans to visit a medical clinic tonight will have to go on hold, snow squalls again. Saturday is supposed to be much better though, with only snow flurries predicted.

I continue to work on my Plan B, it is taking shape, the thoughts and feelings around needing it are beginning to feel familiar, and not so scary. I continue to search for a counsellor. Every day I call and leave a message with a counsellor, who’s fees are eligible for the company health plan coverage, and every day I receive a call back to let me know they are not taking new clients. The list of people I would be comfortable with is almost exhausted, so I may begin again at the top of my list, and inquire about waiting lists. There is no point in seeing someone I am not comfortable with.

It is hard work not falling through the widening cracks in Ontario’s health care structure. A recent call to the medical clinic, where I have been on the waiting list for over two years, gave me a bit of a shock. In May, 2016, I was told that I was at the top of the waiting list of 400 people. When I made yet another call to check on things this week, I was told I was way down the list because I had requested to go on the list in June, 2016. NOOOOO Luckily I write things down, so I had the name of the person I talked to every time, and the dates I had called, and a record of what I was told at each call. The list was consulted again, using my dates, and indeed, I was at the top of the waiting list until someone transcribed the list last June and my name was shoved down the list “by mistake”. I am not sure I believe it was a mistake. I have to wonder if there haven’t been new clients accepted at the clinic, over the last two years, who have connections of some kind. If I hadn’t called, we would be so far down on the list that we would not hear from them for years to come, possibly not in my lifetime. They say they are hiring a new doctor and that I should get a call in the new year… I’ve heard this before from them, so I am not holding my breath.

Another health related gap, is that the report from heart specialist appointment last September did not arrive at the walk-in clinic office. The walk-in clinic did not notice the gap, and it took three calls to them to finally talk with a receptionist, who will request the records from the heart specialist. There were recommendations made that I need to follow up. There are other issues my kidneys and gallbladder that were not followed up as promised by the walk-in clinic, so I will have to after them about that too. Walk-in clinics cannot offer any continuity of care, they aren’t really structured that way. No senior citizen should have to live with this kind of fractured health care delivery.

These things tend to run in cycles, in my experience. So hopefully I will be able to address all of the current gaps, and then enjoy a period of rest before the next cluster comes along.

My Sister-The-Middle-Girl let me know last night that my little brother has had two strokes, which left him dragging one of his legs. The doctors had been trying to figure out why his leg was dragging, and a CT scan revealed that he had had two strokes, unnoticed by him. There are no other discernable effects, other than his leg. My siblings and I, we aren’t children anymore, we aren’t young anymore. And yet, when I think of each of them, in my mind they are the beautiful children that I knew in my early years. For me they are forever young.

We picked up the car from the garage last night, and at last I have a vehicle to use during the day. The bill was substantial, not unfairly so, but substantial on our budget. Belts will be tightened accordingly here at Mist Cottage. The car is working well now, ready for Attila’s commute to work, and for visiting our loved ones during this holiday season.

The errands requiring transportation had been accumulating, and I am now able to begin whittling down the list. The first one was to get the Drive Clean test performed on Tank. With that accomplished, I could pay the annual license fees. Because I was waiting as the doors were unlocked, at the garage for the test, and then the MTO office (Ministry of Transportation) for the license renewals, I was first to the wicket at both locations. Within an hour I was back home and taking care of the accompanying task of applying stickers, and filing. Hopefully next week the weather will be nice enough to make a few trips to the city to check off the other items on my list.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-2°C
Date: 8:04 AM EST Friday 8 December 2017
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -2.3°C
Dew point: -8.8°C
Humidity: 61%
Wind: W 13 km/h
Wind Chill: -7
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“It is unbecoming for young men [women] to utter maxims.”
Aristotle
384 BC – 322 BC

Traditional Camp

The sun comes out and the sun goes in behind the clouds this morning. It is the beginning of what both Attila and I hope will be a quiet and uneventful week.

We made a brief visit to our Traditional Camp in Parry Sound on the weekend, where everything is looking as we left it, thank goodness. The last time we were there was last summer, when we were on our first one week vacation in over 20 years, and it was a disaster. That was the week my brother had a sudden heart attack and passed away. This year, around the same time of year we were in the area to attend a reunion of cousins at my sister’s cottage. Thoughts of my brother and how much my Granny and Grandpa’s house meant to him were at the back of my mind all weekend.

The reunion was organized by my Sister-The-Middle-Girl, and my cousin who is renting a cottage on the same beach as my sister’s cottage. Together with my Sister-The-Youngest-Girl they organized and hosted a get together of all of my Grandpa and Granny’s living Granddaughters, seven of us, except for one Granddaughter who did not attend. We all drove over from the cottages to my Granny and Grandpa’s house and multiple photos were taken of the group. I hadn’t seen one of my cousins for over 30 years, it was wonderful to catch up. My newlywed niece and her husband were there; they treated us to a slide show of their beautiful wedding. My Mom was there, and I got to spend a lovely evening chatting with her. Mom and her daughters, and our spouses but one, all stayed Saturday night at Sister-The-Middle-Girl’s cottage, it was comfortable, and the cottage and beach are beautiful. My Sister-The-Middle-Girl has a beautiful cottage facing west on the lake, the sunsets are stunning.

It is now a 5 ½ to 6 hour drive, one way, to reach our Traditional Camp. We decided to take a scenic journey, heading straight north for quite a distance before turning west to travel through hills and forests. The drive was a treat, the scenery was so beautiful. We took the same route home, but there was quite a bit more traffic, many slower moving RVs on the road, that crawled up the many hills. We were very tired when we arrived home.

I have been growing my hair out for what seems like forever. The idea was to have long hair with no bangs. It is driving me to distraction at times, and at its present length it looks awful all of the time. Usually I do not care, as no one sees me here in the house, or at the camp, save for Attila. It was too bad though that it was looking the way it did for those once in a lifetime pictures at the reunion. I will be very glad indeed when the bangs grow long enough to at least stay tucked neatly behind my ears.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

22°C
Date: 10:00 AM EDT Monday 10 July 2017
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 21.9°C
Dew point: 17.6°C
Humidity: 76%
Wind: SSW 19 km/h
Humidex: 28
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what’s really going on to be scared.”
P. J. Plauger

2016 Retrospective

Although the calendar year is a mere human artifact, it is one that is familiar to me, and so has meaning in my life. It is time to say farewell to 2016.

A year in retrospect, the highlights.

At the end of the years I always think of A Tale Of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Who is to know what will come, I think to myself. How will we know until the end what was the best, and what was the worst, I ask myself.

The year began with Attila starting on regular night shift at his job. This was a big improvement over working rotating shifts, as he had done since our move to Mist Cottage the previous September. By May he had been offered a promotion to a position that was day shift, and allowed weekends off. This was the first time since we have been together that he has had weekends off, it felt like a miracle, and it still does.

Early winter also saw my Mom facing cancer treatment. There was worry involved for those of us who love her. Not a whine or a whimper escaped her though. She underwent radiation therapy with incredible courage, in her typical indomitable way. And now at the end of a very long year for my Mom, she is cancer free, and recovering from the severe effects of radiation treatment. The side effects of the radiation treatment were severe, and are ongoing. Mom seems to have made her peace with the reality, and has resumed almost all of her previous activities, and is a going concern once more. Sometimes I am in awe of my Mom.

Mom 1945 6 Parry Sound High School picture My Mom at the age of 15, cropped from a school picture, at the end of the second world war.

In the spring of 2016 Attila and I found and purchased the Rideau Camp. We spent every spare minute working there, clearing brambles, brush, dead trees, logs, and garbage. We built a fire pit and a compost toilet system. It was easily the happiest spring of my life, and Attila feels the same way about it.

DSCF8642 This is the Rideau Camp at the end of May, 2016. At this point we had owned the property for seven weeks, the brambles that covered the flat area between the gravel and the wood pile had been cleared and burned by then. We were preparing the camp fire pit, and enjoying picnics every weekend at the Camp.

We also purchased Iris the trailer during the spring. She is a 1976/7 Triple E Surfside trailer, in reasonable condition. We enjoyed camping at our Rideau Camp, and at our Ancestral Camp.

TrailerWEB Iris, on March 5, when we picked her up. It snowed that day!

Also in the early spring we demolished the garden shed at Mist Cottage, and Attila replaced it with a solidly built shed. This project was to take only a few weeks, but the summer had other plans for our time, and it was finally completed in late October. Attila also installed a dishwasher in August, and I must say it is game changer in the kitchen, we love it!

DSCF9742 The renewed Garden Shed, ready for duty at last on October 9, solid and roomy and hopefully mouse proof!

NewImage The new dishwasher. Our counter space is limited, you can see all of it in the photo, and it makes a huge difference when the dirty dishes are piled in the appliance and not on the counters. It also takes little time to wash and air dry the dishes, which are very easy to put away in such a small kitchen.

In late spring Sunny and Sky were born, 7 weeks premature. They were in NICU for six weeks, and Sky had a few touch and go moments. They came home with Terra and Lares, began to thrive, and are beautiful babies. One of Sky’s middle names is Robert, my brother Carl’s middle name, which is just a coincidence as the babie’s middle names are all after Lares side of the family, but it gives me comfort nevertheless.

FullSizeRender Sunny (left) and Sky (right) at 5 months (Gestational 3 months).

We had our first ever summer vacation last July. It was an event we anticipated with great excitement. It just goes to show you that you never know what is around the corner. After spending a few days at our Ancestral Camp, we returned home, then received the news that my brother had suffered a massive heart attack and lay unconscious in a hospital in Toronto. He experienced cardiac arrest for 15 minutes before being resuscitated, and never regained consciousness; my Mom, and all of my siblings were by his side through the long days of hope and disappointment. His funeral was held weeks later. Losing my brother was a profound experience for me, we were babies together, I feel his absence to the core of my being. Carl was an organ donor, and saved three lives.

LittleBrother1970sAtGrannys My brother Carl, at Granny and Grandpa’s house. He returned to spend time at the house almost every year, and that is where we experienced our reunion the summer before last.

By August my blood pressure was high, very high, and would not come down, even after quadrupling my medication. I began a round of doctors appointments at the walk-in-clinic (after more than a year, we still can’t find a family doctor), and had a nuclear stress test on my heart (normal!). The levels slowly lowered, but are still in the “high blood pressure” range. In September I adopted a low-sodium, low-sugar diet, and began taking Apple Cider Vinegar before each meal, which helped. By October I had decided to reduce the ineffective and redundant medication dosage back to the original low dosage, which made no difference at all, but I did find that discontinuing the medication resulted in my blood pressure skyrocketing again, so went back to taking the low dosage. The dietary changes are an intense experience, because something like a pickle and piece of bread could put me over my daily limit for sodium. I also found that food without sodium or sugar is not all that interesting, so that as soon as hunger is satisfied, I stop eating. I no longer eat for pleasure, because it is not pleasurable, just necessary. There has been a slight weight loss.

The most significant feature of 2016 has been that we live at Mist Cottage, and that Attila has regular working hours and weekends off. These two situations are game changers, and have improved our experience of life immeasurably.

It was a year of much joy and deep sorrow.

P.S. I invite you to share the highlights of your 2016, would love to hear them!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-4°C
Date: 7:05 AM EST Saturday 31 December 2016
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -4.3°C
Dew point: -6.3°C
Humidity: 86%
Wind: E 18 km/h
Wind Chill: -10
Visibility: 3 km

Quote

“You better live your best and act your best and think your best today, for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.”
Harriet Martineau
1802 – 1876

A Hole in the Universe

My brother with our dog, by the tractor. This was taken on our fruit farm in Niagara the summer of 1957.
1957brother

How many times I have written this entry, how many times minus one I have been overwhelmed with emotion, deleted it, closed the program, risen from my chair, and wandered away to do something, anything, to keep my conscious mind busy.

There is a hole in my universe, an empty space where there was once an energy, a voice, bedrock, a known corner of the world. I find myself leaking, emotions, tears, thoughts…

My eldest brother died on Sunday, July 17, at 11:20 a.m. We were there by his side, Attila and I, my Mom, my sisters and their partners, my brothers, one in person and one in spirit who could not be there. For four days we kept watch at my brother’s bedside, hoping against the odds that he would show signs of life, the fluttering of an eyelid, an attempt to talk, a movement of the hand. Attila and I sat quietly with him the day they raised his body temperature, suspended the sedation, waiting for him to open his eyes, to know we were there. But it was his time, and no matter how hard we hoped for his company, it was not to be. I will be forever grateful that I got to hold his hand at the end of his life, as I held it when he first appeared in my life, so many decades ago.

He had had a heart attack. He collapsed just after the ambulance arrived after having trouble catching his brea†h. He was unconscious and without a pulse for ten minutes on his way into the Emergency department at the hospital, and his pulse was lost a second time. After four days on life support, and extensive testing, we had to accept that he had suffered brain death, and would not recover. I found it very hard to accept, he looked so rosy and heathy and peaceful; his body was being kept alive by the life support measures that were in place.

The doctor and nurses Joseph and Sharon in the ICU were wonderful. The doctor talked to us daily, answered any and all questions with gentleness and patience, and kept my Mom informed up to the minute. My brother became an organ donor, making it possible for three people to live healthy lives.

We said our goodbyes. All of our lives there have been the six of us, and it just feels wrong that now we are five.

There are many ways in which I am mourning my little brother, some of them bittersweet, some of them are soft and glowing, and some of them are involved and difficult. He was a complex and intelligent man, courageous in all circumstances, fiercely protective of family, and he has left an indelible mark on the lives of those who loved him.

Safe journey little brother, walk with the angels.

For My Journey

What an intense time we have had here over the last few weeks. The intense experiences just seem to keep coming. What I am realizing is that in each instance, there has been a gift, a treasure, a vital necessary thing that I have needed in my journey through this experience called life.

Mist, in her gentle passing, gave me the experience of a gentle and loving parting. She experienced no fear, no distress during her last hours. She was ready to go, and yet she made time for Attila and I, allowing Attila to brush her as we sat with her in the examination room at the veterinary’s office, allowing me to tickle her chin, nuzzling me. She trusted us and loved us until her last breath, as we did her. That trust is something I needed for my journey.

Reenie, in her boldly lived life, endless capacity for hope, and love, taught me so much about living my own life. I needed her bright light, that she shone so generously on the world, for my journey.

Yesterday, I reunited with my closest younger brother, in age, who I last saw almost thirty years ago. He and I, we shared some very challenging times during our very early years, when we were children, just children. We have both traveled far since then.

He was staying at our Granny and Grandpa’s house, with a friend, an engineer. They were enjoying a few days away from the city to go fishing. He had visited our Granny and Grandpa’s house many times over the years, but I had not managed to visit at the same time. On every visit to Granny and Grandpa’s house I would check to see if he was there, or if he had been there.

Attila and I were visiting our camp, and decided to check on Granny and Grandpa’s house before we left. We knew immediately, as we walked to the back of the house, that someone was staying there. I went inside, calling my brother’s name, but no one was there. I made a call, and found out that he and his friend were staying there, were driving a truck, and had probably gone fishing, those were the only details we had.

We had seen a truck at the boat launch on our way through, so we returned to the boat launch. There was a truck there, so we went down to the shoreline to wait for the return of the fishermen. We met a local couple who were fishing with their son. The fishermen in their boat were nowhere to be seen, so we spent several hours chatting with the fisher-family on the shore. Eventually we saw a boat coming in to the boat launch, so we went to see if it was my brother. It was not. My brother had not been out fishing, as there were no more vehicles at the boat launch, so there were no more boats coming in.

Attila and I decided to head home, and to drop in at Granny and Grandpa’s house on our way by. After parking at the front of the house, we passed the kitchen window. There were lights on, voices from within. We came into the house and my brother rose to say hello, not knowing at first who we were. Then he recognized me. What a joy to see him, to hug him, to know that he was fine. We talked for hours and hours and hours, catching up, filling each other in on the last thirty years of our lives. The years fell away from us as we talked, and we were very young children again, together laughing, grinning. We were very close in our very early years, had great adventures together, in our brief time of innocence. That bond we formed in those early years had only grown stronger over the decades. The young boy who held his mother’s hand for a family photo, adored his younger sisters and brothers, was alive and strong in the man. It seems so very right that this gift was given to us at our Granny and Grandpa’s house, a place that we had both given and received unconditional love. That enduring bond of love and faith that I share with my younger brother was something that I need for my journey.

So the universe has been exceedingly kind to me of late, giving me gifts that I did not know I needed, gifts that have lifted weights from my soul, gifts that have lit dark corridors that had been locked away behind closed doors.

It is enough to make one believe in angels.

Granny and Grandpa’s house, last summer when Luna, Janus, Imp, Elf, and Tink visited. Luna was visiting her Great Grandmother and Grandfather’s house, and the Grandbabies were visiting their GG Grandmother and Grandfather’s house. Five generations of connection.
DSCF3079 grannys house 400x266

Worldly Distractions

Weather

19°C
Date: 7:00 PM EDT Monday 10 August 2015
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 19.4°C
Dewpoint: 18.0°C
Humidity: 92%
Wind: calm

Quote

“The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.”
Pearl S. Buck
1892 – 1973