Alberta Health


I feel like crap. And it’s getting old.

Spanish flu notice

Image via Wikipedia

Rob brought home some creepy crud flu-like thing a few weeks ago, and foolishly I caught it from him. It’s one of those insidious not quite bad enough to send you to the doctors but just awful enough to keep you from getting through the day upright things.

It started last Thursday evening, We attended a work function for Rob’s company. Swanky old-school railroad hotel in town with the dinner you follow the utensil tray from the outside in to eat. During the main course, I suddenly felt faint. Just whoosh. I don’t know what kept me from nose diving into the mashed potatoes and I was seriously worried about how I would make it to the door if I needed to make a quick dash for the ladies’ washroom.

But several glass of water and a cup of tea later, I managed a dignified exit and then shivered all the way to the vehicle and half-way home.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday found me in bed for several hours with ice packs on my eyes and zonked.

Sore throat, light-headed, swollen glands, tight chest with the most unproductive cough ever and the sorest ribs. Not to mention arms and legs that ached from top to nails.

And my armpits hurt?!

Tuesday I felt a tad better. Went to yoga in the AM. Taught yoga in the PM. In between I worked on writing and homework for a class I am taking. Yesterday, I wrote until the afternoon before heading into town to pick up Dee and take her to pottery. And then I was done. It hit and ramped up until I was forced to take to my bed early last evening.

I was up a bit this morning but I can hear the bed calling.

I hate being sick. Especially sick enough that I have to pay attention and do something about it. I am hoping to avoid the doctor. Cures are worse than illness and I still haven’t completely resigned myself to the Canadian healthcare system, but I couldn’t drive myself to town if I wanted to as bad as I feel.

So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, it’s because I am curled in a fetal position but hopefully not dead.


The change in ribs

Image via Wikipedia

They say that chest pains should never be ignored. Rob refused to give his credence and look what happened. He could easily have died last summer.

So when I woke with chest pains in the wee hours Wednesday morning, I debated about 5 minutes before waking Rob.

I’d been seeing a physical therapist for rib pain that I thought stemmed from a neck/shoulder injury and just really bad desk ergonomics, but the pain I felt at 4 A.M. was across the top of the chest mainly and in the breastbone, so off we went to the E.R.

The E.R. in the Fort is a dicey proposition. The doctors are hit/miss in terms of interest and bedside manner and the nursing staff even mores so. But we lucked out, and there were just three other patients already in rooms when there could just as easily have been sick folk packing the lobby and stacked in the hallway like cord wood.

The doctor was foreign. They are all foreign. I don’t think white people pursue medical careers in Canada. And he was very young. My own doctor is Indian and not even as old as Edie. As a result, I am not quite sure if I am simply being imprecise with my description of what ails me or they are working from different English grammar book than the one I used to teach 7th graders with. Regardless, I always end up feeling frustrated and cut off, but eventually, the Dr. Ali Baba seemed to understand what I was trying to say.

Part of the problem was that I couldn’t fix on what the pain felt like other than it hurt and the doctor and nurses kept trying to spin what I was saying to match up with their checklists.

But Dr. Ali Baba did at least exam me. Canadian doctors so rarely look up from their laptops, let alone put them down and lay hands on you that I am beginning to wonder if they have divine powers.

Diagnosis? Costochondritis. An inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone. It can result from injury or from overuse or as a result of a chest infection. I am three for three on all counts this last six weeks.

Prescription?

“Rest your torso,” Dr. Ali Baba said.

As the torso makes up, well, pretty much everything that isn’t appendage, I am struggling with that and the contradiction …

“And also exercise and stretch.”

The nurse came in with a trainee who then was allowed to practice on me. The doctor ordered an injection of an anti-inflammatory which hurt probably more than the inflammation, and after it kicked in – we were cut loose.

Dee, naturally, had to be awakened from a sound sleep for our trip in. To her credit she was a trooper and betrayed not even the slightest bit of worry. She gets that from Rob.

Rob dubbed me an “official crisis weenie” though because I was a bit more than a little freaked out.

Well, duh. It was chest pains and he nearly died last summer.

But, I am a marathon girl not a sprinter, I need time to adjust and slip back into sanguine. Perhaps I should look for that meditation teacher and build up my calm muscles?

Yesterday then, and today still, I feel worse than I have for a week. I am propping myself in front of the infrared heat lamp and getting ready to sauna again before lying down to read on the heating pad. I have to teach yoga tonight, and I need to build up a bit of ease in the trunk, but in all likelihood, my students might spend the entire class prone.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time. Drywalling looms and Rob was counting on me at least to be his helper for the duration because the older girls and Sliver have limited time off to help.

In yoga, they say that injury is a sign to slow down. When one is moving too fast and doesn’t recognize the subtle signs that leisure and contemplation are necessary, it whacks you. And I won’t deny that I have been thinking and pondering changes and that be more mindful and leisurely would help facilitate the process. So, universe, duly noted.

But the ribs? Seriously. A little carpal tunnel wouldn’t have been done just as well?

 


Dead Snow Angel

Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

Nagging health issues continue to plague me and keep me from focusing on writing in specific and general. I rouse myself for the occasional pet issue here and there about the web, but I haven’t written for the paying gig in about a month and am still mentally sorting through ideas for a longer offline project. Like winter, I guess, I am all about the hibernating and waiting.

Ruminating before leaping is not out of character for me. Really. When it appears as if I am pouncing like a rabid werewolf, it’s only because I’m unleashing on a subject that’s been throughly hashed out in my mind and is, in fact, an older than dirt topic for me.

New things? I window shop with glacial intent.

For example? I made a purchase via Old Navy last week. Yoga togs that I eyeballed near daily for over a month before committing to them.

So in matters of writing, I am more James Joyce than twit blogger.

Aches and pains and the fact that navigating a Canadian healthcare system designed more to befuddle and irritate than be helpful adds to my general lack of forward momentum.

Doctors don’t listen. Test results meander their way from one part of the labyrinth to another, and helpful insights like “it’s probably not cancer” add to the stress.

On the only bright side, today, an appointment with the physio went surprisingly well. As I go to each appointment with expectations one could sweep a floor with, finding a healthcare professional who makes eye contact in addition to being able to let a person finish a sentence or more without interrupting is positively soul cuddling.

My thoracic back, left shoulder and neck are totally fucked up though not in a unfixable way. Huzza.

And, it’s stopped snowing. No telling how long this will last but there is actual sunshine and the wind isn’t slicing through the house.

Which brings me to the house.  No, the reno is not done, and both Rob and I are weary past words of the whole thing. Drywalling may commence this weekend if he keeps up the same pace with wiring and plumbing but between my totally fucked back and iffy neck/shoulder and his recent gout attack – well – sigh*.

Dee chomps at the bit to be allowed to help but at nearly four feet tall and not 50 lbs drenched, she falls short of being useful.

Here is the worst thing right now – the hamster wheel effect. Since Christmas at least, it’s as if there is not one iota of difference from yesterday to tomorrow. I am Bill Murray living the same day over and over. People jet off to warmer climes. They throw dinner parties. Or have nights out without children. But we might as well be living in Pleasantville for all the difference in our white one white world.

Does that sound whiny? It’s not meant to. Just observing and wondering how much longer the quo remains at status.

 

*The worst of it is the lack of space with half the house in shreds. Barely room to spread a yoga mat most days and don’t get me started on the continually shifting of stuff necessary to even cook a meal. Weekdays I manage, but on the weekends – that’s at least two or more preps and I sometimes just want to sit on the floor and cry because it’s like Sisyphus and the rock.


The Emperor's new clothes

Image by Al_HikesAZ via Flickr

Why? Because they don’t like the truth either.

Especially when it challenges their assumptions, illusions, delusions or the outdated and/or unsustainable fantasy lands they prefer over reality.

Take health care for example.

No, really, health care.

Among the many things I am envied for now that I am a “Canadian” is the fact that we have a quasi-universal system whereas my nearest, dearest and somewhat acquainted with in the U.S. are at the mercy of a hodge-podge of plans and coverage that rest largely on one’s ability to have a really good job or be old enough to have finally grabbed the golden Medicare ring.

But it’s not for all its universality and it’s not equitable really because each province is free to fund or not a long list of health care perks to which they can attach user fees – though they tend to be ridiculously modest in light of what the average American pays per month for similar coverage.

The system is also insanely expensive. According to recent numbers if Canadian Medicare was a business, it would be among the largest corporations in the world.  Based on 2009 revenues, it earned$183.1 billion which would earn it the number three spot on Fortune 500’s list between Exxon Mobil and Chevron. It would also be the talk of Wall Street for its poor business practices, and the fact that despite raking in revenue, it’s expenses still manage to eat up most of its “profits”. If it were a business, no investor in his/her right mind would touch it.

Canadians are used to hearing that their much-loved system is in deep do-do. So used to it that their defense mechanisms are well-honed and anyone who dares to point out the Emperor Healthcare is wearing a hospital gown with a decidedly exposed rear end is likely to be shamed at best or called out as Republican in Maple-leaf clothing.

I wrote a post for Care2 the other day – at the urging of my editor – citing a very well-known (if you bother to read the news) fact about how the current conservative government is quietly hanging their share of Medicare funding out on the line in hopes, it seems, that no one will notice what they are doing until it’s too late.

Judging from the roasting I personally received from the Canadian commenters, it would appear that the Harper government‘s stealth abandonment of its obligations is going well. NO ONE believed me. And this in spite of the fact that I linked to the article – chock full of facts – that showed I was correct.

The post I wrote focused mainly on the funding issues and the fact that Canada’s much-cherished system has some issues. Some of them big. And some of them getting bigger.

What did everyone zero in on?

Well, that I am an American. More than a few of the comments seemed to think I was living in the States and writing fiction about Canada’s health care for the Tea Party.

They also didn’t like that I wasn’t enamoured of my health care and called my personal experiences (and I didn’t even share the horrific ones) out as lies. Bald-faced and in the service of Rush Limbaugh.

Shudder.

Which bring me back to this posts title.

People are idiots. And they are rude and they can’t read very well. But mostly, they don’t want to hear truth unless it is their version of it.

The truth is that Canadian healthcare is okay when compared to the nothing  that exists in the States. But there are countries in the world – more than a handful really – that have much, much better, cheaper and more user-friendly systems.

Canadians spend a lot of money for rather average care and for service that would probably get a person fired if they worked at McDonald’s.

I hesitated to share my own experiences because I am met with enough stern looks from people I actually know when I do. It’s always “you should be more grateful”, but why? Just because illness doesn’t have the same capacity to destroy my life as it did down south (though it’s not venom free), I don’t understand being grateful for a system that knows it can be better and refuses because it would be more work than resting on its big fat superior smugness.

And here’s the thing that really eats at me, Canadians are just as complacent as those in the U.S. who have insurance are because they don’t want to be inconvenienced by reform that would make the system better for those forced to deal with it the most (elderly and chronically ill) and those who aren’t lucky enough to have supplemental insurance through an employer. Because they exist like the Ignorance and Want under Christmas Present’s velvety petticoats but they don’t show Canada in the rosy coloured glow that allows folks here to look down their noses at America.

Lefties? Righties? I am beginning to think the world would be better off without either group. Perhaps those of us in the middle could work on getting something real accomplished if they weren’t mucking things up with their hysteria.


 

Shadow, canola, and sky

Image by Chris & Lara Pawluk via Flickr

 

The fields surrounding the hamlet we live in are hard to see these days. Dust kicked up by the harvest as combines the size of houses roam with manic purpose, desperate to finish a harvest thwarted by a wetter than usual autumn that followed on the heels of a soggy summer.

Being allergic to the produce is only half my problem. I am reactive to dirty air in general as my lungs take issue with being required to perform the simple filtering task for which they were designed in the first place.  Gritty air plus allergens means my lungs burn even as the muscles of my chest, upper back and side knot in anticipation of the histamine onslaught.

Yesterday, it felt like my bottom ribs were riddled with cracks like an antique glaze on ceramic. Today is a tad better as there seem to be fewer farmers dusting the breeze.

The worst thing about my asthma, aside from having it at all, is the confinement. Even the windows hold me in as I strive to keep the particle saturation to a minimum indoors.

I saw the Doctor again today to follow-up on my lung function test – which they didn’t have – but she and I agree that it is my allergies that are ground-zero. Asthma is merely a by-product. Identify and control the allergies and the asthma will be subdued as a side-effect.

Allergy testing won’t commence until just before Christmas. That’s the first available appointment.

In the meantime, I am – uncharacteristically and well aware of the irony – hoping for a good rain.


Medieval dentist removing tooth

Image via Wikipedia

It’s becoming a Dickensian serial novel with today’s installment to detail, among other things, the fact that my back molar is freakishly designed with “extra” nerve roots. Or whatever the dental terms for the root canals are.

The appointment was at nine, and so confident was I of getting in and out in the allotted hour and a half that I had a list of errands I planned to run before heading back home to meet up with a yoga friend I’m working with this fall.

But it was for naught.

Three hours I sat, or rather reclined, in the dentist’s chair with my mouth open most of the time to prevent the sharp pokey thing (another technical dental term) from stabbing my exposed tooth innards (today’s episode will swim in medical labels, so bear with me).

On a positive note, I am no longer a walking pus factory. The infection, between draining and a short eternity on antibiotics, is “cured”. Which is  no small thing, as I can recall only a handful of times in my entire life that I have felt that ill.

On the other hand, I have concrete proof that I am some sort of mutant. Well, okay, more proof.

I knew that I had just three wisdom teeth. Humanity is slowly giving rise to beings who lack all the quaint reminders of our early evolution – like wisdom teeth and the appendix. Eventually, in theory, humans will stop being born with these useless things at all.

In her excavations, the dentist discovered that my molar has four root canals instead of the normal three and that the fourth one is in the wrong place.

My friend was surprised to find me upright, having lunch (no great feat as it was soup) and eager to visit. The impression I get of root canals from others leads me to wonder why the Bush administration didn’t employ their widespread use at Gitmo.

While it was uncomfortable, and there were ouchy moments (forgive me for getting technical again), I haven’t been incapacitated with pain and really wasn’t dreading today’s appointment.

The key to good root canal is a dentist who isn’t stingy with Novocaine but is also not ham-fisted in the application. When ears and eyeballs go numb, the dentist clearly graduated in the bottom half of his/her class. Since that is not the norm, but certainly worth scouring a person’s portion of the earth for in my opinion, I have to wonder what happens to those who graduate dental college with honors. Alien abduction?

Unless lamenting the time suck and the fact that my only distraction was television count as horrors for anyone else, I have fared quite well.

No one should really be forced to watch The View.

But, barring anything unforeseen – and isn’t everything really? – I won’t have to go back until the beginning of October when the only awful thing that awaits is fitting for a crown.

So, it was not the best or the worst of times comparatively speaking though I hope to live a long time without revisiting anything of its like again.


An image from 1300s (A.D.) England depicting a...

Image via Wikipedia

Back in yore, rotten teeth killed people. Enamel cracked or was eaten away by food debris and lack of sufficient (or any) dental hygiene. Germs seeped into the root canal because dogs aren’t the only of God’s creatures with festering saliva, and infection blossomed.

Left alone long enough, pus oozes along the pathways hither and yon and before a person could scream for the local witch woman or butcher, sepsis and death.

Archeologists are forever digging up our bony ancestors who succumbed to the dreaded toothache. Many a mummy met his end for lack of root canal.

Last week, I could have been on track to become a freak statistic because people in the “modern” world do still die of the occasional tooth abscess gone horribly wrong.

Fortunately, I have Rob.

After messing about for close to two weeks with an infection that defied doctors, my own and in the ER, I noticed that my lower jaw hurt and suspected that a cavity filled at the end of July could have gone bad.

A call to the emergency number at the dentist’s practice on Sunday evening was less than helpful. Perhaps I am mistaken about the whole “dental emergency” thing, but I was expecting something other than “go to the ER and call us on Tuesday morning to schedule an appointment.”

Tuesday morning I was told that I could be squeezed in on Thursday afternoon for a 30 minute consult.

This was after I disclosed my saga and symptoms, which alarmed the receptionist enough to go to the cubicles herself and let the dentist know what was going on and ask for guidance.

His great wisdom? Sounds like a root canal was needed. Can’t do anything until the infection settles a bit. Stay on the antibiotics and come in next week. Tuesday. In the afternoon.

“Call my dentist,” Rob said. “I know it’s going to be awkward because you switched to someone new but she will probably see you today.”

I did switch to someone new. I wanted a better hygienist. The gentleman I was assigned to has huge fingers and is a very nervous fellow. My first experience with him was … painful … and though he improved, I dreaded going in.

And Dee did nothing but whine and wince.

So a friend suggested another practice and the hygienist was awesome and the Dentist does good check-up.

He sucks at cavities though. I had two done at the end of July. Horrific and then I ended up with the whole abscess thing …

“I’m not up for awkward at the moment, ” I told Rob.

But visions of dead mummies plagued me more than saving face did, so I called and I was worked in immediately – no questions.

She was concerned about the infection, the pain, the possibility that the infection was gaining strength. Changed my antibiotic. Actually found a pain med I could take without miserable side-effects and gave up some of her lunch hour to work me in the next day for a root canal.

The other guy had said that root canals can’t be performed until the antibiotics start to work.

Not true. Don’t ever buy that.

I spent about two hours on Wednesday in root canal mode. The worst thing about it is keeping your mouth open for so long that the jaw cramps. But the pain wasn’t bad. I’ve had two root canals now and never time did I suffer.

My opinion about suffering? Either the dentist isn’t skilled or you’ve had the misfortune of having a massive infection that simply couldn’t be effectively anesthetized. It happens.

Most of the time, the tooth drained. It was quite … ookie … that’s a professional medical term by the way.

The infection is still being subdued. I don’t feel great, but I am not hurting down my neck, across my chest and the pains in my ribs are mostly gone.

It was just the icing on several weeks worth of medical reckonings. My thyroid appears to be failing and I had two more eye swelling experiences, so the new doctor is sending me all over the greater Edmonton area to be tested for this and that.

“You can’t die until I am grown up,” Dee informed me last week as I tucked her in for the night.

“You can’t die at all,” Rob said later, “because that little girl simply couldn’t survive it.”

He didn’t have to add that it would suck a lot for him too.

I’m not dying, but I have been neglectful of some things that I would have jumped all over if I were back in the States and seeing my much missed Dr. C. I am simply going to have to bring the Canadian way of medicine into harmony with my own personal needs. How, I haven’t quite figured out, but I was told once that I am a force of nature, so Hurricane Annie will have to put her thinking cap on.