I almost died.
I’m not talking about the time a semi-trailer hit the tail end of the car my father and I were in. Both my father and I escaped that without a scratch.
The car was totalled, and second hand clothing we were taking to the thrift shop, were scattered all over the highway’s ditch.
We didn’t bother to collect them.
I’m talking about 2 years ago, this christmas, when I lay in the ICU of my local hospital, with a ventilator, feeding tube, jugular IV, and multiple tubes and wires hooked up all over me.
Because of an unexpected allergic reaction to medication, I came as close to death as one can get without dying.
And it wasn’t nice.
Having come so close to death, crashing on Christmas Day, and taken the better part of two years to get back to a somewhat normal life, I am now imagining what my life would be like without me.
I sat outside on the steps of my brother’s house while my family celebrated Christmas inside, I listened to them laughing and having fun and wondered… “ ‘would they be doing all this if I wasn’t here?’ Would they be having as much fun? Would they talk about me? Would supper, the games and the laughter be the same?
My family… How would they have coped, planed my funeral, went through my things, and decided who got what?
I knew I was close to dying, but I was so sick it took all my strength to open my eyes and look at my visitors. I couldn’t talk because of the ventilator. I tried to figure out a way to communicate my last wishes, but I just couldn’t do it, because didn’t have the physical strength or ability.
Through it all I learned one thing: The most valuable thing I own, is my health card. I would not be here, or I would be in debt, if I wasn’t a Canadian and we didn’t have universal health care in this country.
Every winter I used to wonder, why I lived in such a cold country, that necessitated, boots, coats, mittens, shovels, snow scrapers, car batteries, and all sorts of other things just to survive in this frozen land. I’d say “well at least we don’t have huge bugs like tarantulas, and awful reptiles like cobras and alligators”, to comfort myself, but now…
My health card. My Canadian citizenship. That’s why I live here. It’s so much more valuable to me now. I appreciate it so much more now, because that piece of plastic, has given me access to the best health care in the world and I didn’t pay a thing.
I didn’t have to wait a second.
The hospital was informed while I was in the ambulance. When I arrived at the hospital, completely out cold, I was rushed to an operating room, where they placed a breathing tube, and other tubes and wires. Surgeons, nurses, equipment, the operating room, and everything else was all there as soon as I arrived at the hospital.
We complain about wait times in the country, but I waited zero seconds. It was there when I needed it, completely free of charge, without judgement or wait. It was based on need.
They didn’t ask my occupation, my insurance, how much money I had in the bank, or how I was going to pay for it. My health card removed the necessity.
I didn’t have to wait while my family filled out forms, or the hospital asked how I would pay for my treatment.
After surgery I was taken to the ICU, where I stayed under sedation for 8 days, and then I was taken to a regular hospital ward for another three weeks.
I didn’t get a bill.
Complaining about wait times, is a hobby in Canada, but we really don’t know how lucky we are, health delivery is based on need, not money.
Next time you have to wait for an MRI, to see a doctor in the ER, or for elective surgery, be thankful that you are healthy enough to wait. You are not dying. You are not in danger of dying. You do not have a life changing injury or illness. You will live, you will survive, you will return to your normal life, and you will not pay a thing.
You do not want to be so sick that you wait zero seconds. You do not want your family to be crying at your beside, wondering if you will live, and if you do live, what your quality of life will be. You do not want to be so sick, that opening your eyes to look at your visitors takes almost all of your strength. You do not want the pain of having a tube pushed down your throat with such force that it tears the inside of your throat all the way down, making swallowing, eating, and breathing difficult for 6 months after hospital discharge. You do not want to struggle with things you found easy before, and to cry because you can’t imagine ever getting better, even after your home, and people tell you, your lucky to be alive.
You don’t want that. Do not be jealous of the people who don’t wait. Be thankful you are not that sick. Know that services are based on need, and waiting will not kill you. It might kill the people who don’t wait, but it won’t kill you. Be thankful.
It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like without me. What would family gatherings, my home life, my family, or my daily life be like without me?
Thankfully nobody knows, not me, not my family, nobody.
And I didn’t pay a thing.