What a beautiful land, with vast expanses and resources, exceedingly rich, given the population of just 37 million in the second largest country of the world.
This was my opinion until St. Nicholas Day (December 6), when I had to go to Powell River General Hospital for a day surgery for colon cancer. All day I had to wait, because of other emergency operations keeping my surgeon busy.
At 5 pm it was finally my turn, and at 7 pm I was at home again. I flopped exhausted on the couch, but soon noticed that I was lying in a pool of blood. At 8 pm I was back in emergency via ambulance.
The rest of the night I did not think I was in Canada, but in a war zone where a doctor was trying to patch up the wounded all around me. It took an hour until the surgeon came. I had lost over a litre of blood.
Here I was, not in a bright, clean operation room, but in what seemed to me to be a hallway. People coming in from the street were running past me all night long looking for help.
At one moment I saw a young mother, cuddling her little child to her breast in her coat. In her love for her baby she ran so fast that her feet hardly touched the ground, only to be ushered to the waiting room. Her husband followed her about half an hour later, trailed by three more children. I heard the little family trying to calm the whimpering baby for the rest of the night.
I heard there were several people on the stretchers after heart attacks waiting for two days to be flown out. The cafeteria could have been opened to stack up people there, but there was no staff for them.
The surgeon, when he finally came, tried to stop the bleeding in the colon, without proper light, proper hygiene, without anesthesia. It was so painful. I wished I could have fainted but I did not. I was laying on my stretcher bathed in my cold sweat for the rest of the night while a blood transfusion was administered.
In the morning the surgeon was minded to discharge me, the hospital was full, but the nurse gently objected and I was reluctantly admitted.
It was soon evident that I had a giant infection. But it was the weekend. I could have eaten something, but who, with a hole in the intestines, would like curry beans and the like? For budget reasons the food is not prepared by locals. So I fasted.
On Monday morning I had the next operation to remove the infection, and was told I would have to fast for another week in order to dry the wounds out. By Wednesday I saw this would not happen and had a third operation to disconnect my colon.
Meanwhile, I have had occasion to meet many of the wonderful but totally overburdened nurses. At the time of my writing there were eight people without a room for their bed. The hospital is overfull. What will happen when the flu season starts? Will there be a tent set up outside and volunteers called in from the road to help?
What happened to the “True North strong and free?” Who is creaming off the resources and letting the people suffer? What is happening with the vast riches? Are we standing on guard for thee, O Canada?
Please friends, stand up. Something has to be done, and fast.
Gerlinde Elsbett is a Powell River resident who lives in Wildwood.