In my position as a communications manager with Eastern Health, I write about the organization on a daily basis: its programs and services, its achievements, its changes, its challenges.
I have rarely been a patient or client. Until the fall 2012.
I am living proof of the old adage that “things come in threes.” And in my case – in rapid succession! I limped through October with a pulled muscle in my knee, necessitating X-ray work and a visit to St. Clare’s Emergency Department. As that healed, I found myself early in November at the Emergency Department in the Health Sciences Centre, with symptoms similar to migraine – but which turned out to be a torn retina. Swift action by the staff, followed by emergency laser surgery by an opthamologist the next morning, saved my vision.
As I recuperated from that surgery, during a visit to my family physician, I felt prompted to point out a freckle on my leg which I thought I’d damaged with a cosmetic cream. My doctor didn’t like the look of it and arranged for a biopsy that turned up cells described as ‘malignant melanoma in situ.’ The last two words spelled good news: it was not cancer – but the next thing to it.
Surgery was called for, and because of the location near my ankle, (where excess skin is scarce), it was determined that a skin graft was necessary, requiring the work of a plastic surgeon. Arrangements were made quickly – and the surgery was done a week before Christmas.
At this point, life had become a whirlwind of medical terminology, appointments with nurses, surgeons and anesthesiologists; there was blood work, X-rays, EKGs and the not-insignificant task of getting my mind around all that had happened in such a short time!
My daily routine had veered sharply off course and become unfamiliar and unpredictable. My professionally objective approach towards healthcare had suddenly become both personal and subjective!
Fortunately, I found myself in the hands of a small army of healthcare professionals, for whom all these issues were in a day’s work.
Every single one of them – registration clerks, triage nurses, nurse practitioners, X-ray, EKG and orthopedic technologists, pre-op, recovery and home care nurses, my family physician, specialists, residents and surgeons – were pro-active, efficient and skilled.
More than that, they were compassionate. Without exception.
Compassion when you need it most
In the midst of their busy schedules, treating hundreds, even thousands of patients, they were mindful of the fact that they see people at their most vulnerable, most anxious and most in need of a gentle, reassuring word.
As grateful as I am for the intervention that resulted in timely detection and positive outcomes in my situation – I am equally grateful for what was essentially the ‘kindness of strangers’ when I needed it most!
Some knew I worked with Eastern Health upon meeting; some didn’t. It made no difference to the care provided.
We often hear when things go wrong in health care – and sometimes they do; it’s a system populated by human beings. We don’t hear quite so often when things go very well – and that happens far more frequently.
In the past few years, I’ve gained a head full of knowledge of the expertise and commitment of those who care for us in hospitals, clinics and the comfort of our own homes. That knowledge is now based on my own experience.
During the past year or so, as someone who has kept my ‘guardian angels’ working overtime, I’ve come to realize that some of those angels are unseen – while the others work in our healthcare system – and they make a real difference in people’s lives every day.
I’d just like to say thanks for the kindness. ■
This story was written by Deborah Collins, a communications manager with Eastern Health, based in St. John’s.