When the Captain decided to check out the quality of Canadian Emergency Care

Wherever our family live or travel one of the first things we do is check out where to find the local hospital, or more importantly their Emergency Room.

The first person I met on arriving in the Netherlands, Karen, admitted to me months later she had pigeon-holed me in the neurotic category when, during our first ever conversation, wide-eyed and frazzled I asked the location of the nearest and best ER.

Within two weeks of our arrival in the Netherlands we had our first visit to Leiden ER. Harry broke his arm during orientation week at his new school and we were re-classified in Karen’s mind as ‘sane, just trying to get through the day’.

It’s usually Harry who’s the one requiring emergency medical attention, but Bruce has had his fair share over the years too. The Captain has always managed to avoid hospital admittance with DIY related injuries, which have never been serious enough for emergency admittance status. Those of you who follow the trials of our family will remember I wrote about my dear spouse’s DIY record some time ago.

Yesterday, on day 6 of our Canadian adventure we were excited as the day dawned bright and clear without the threatened rain and glowering clouds forecast by the Canadian meteorologists. Seems their systems of weather prediction are on a par with the rest of the world.

We were both looking forward to heading over with Mr. Mike to Nanaimo, on the big island, where the Pillar Rock was in the boat dock, hauled out of the water to be cleaned and painted. The Captain was keen to be back in a marine environment, don coveralls and have a paintbrush in hand. I was along for the ride, to see something of the big island, take photos and find a quiet spot to read – well away from the action lest I be handed a paintbrush too.

The day started well. The ferry trip was easy, the roads clear up through Ladysmith to Nanaimo, even time to drive through Tim Horton’s for a couple of double-doubles and a latte for me. A quick run into Home Depot for some additional painting equipment and a rare chance for me to smell the lumber piled high at the back of the store, then onto the boatyard.

It was fun seeing the boat out of the water, hull power washed and half painted, watching the guys with weather-tanned faces and easy smiles preparing to spray paint the bottom. It was a comfortable kind of a place; hoses and ropes coiled neatly, the smell of paint and oil mixed with other unknown chemicals, and a battered paint splattered radio playing country music. I knew the Captain would feel at home. I left the guys and retreated back to the truck, curling up on the backseat in a pool of warm sunshine overlooking the marina with views of the islands beyond.

Lost in a book it only seemed five minutes before Mr. Mike ran up to the truck,  jumped in, slammed the doors and fired the engine. I figured it must be lunchtime.

“Just got to go somewhere,” Mr. Mike announced a tad breathlessly, one arm flung over the passenger seat as he twisted to look out of the rear window, reversing the truck at speed out of the parking lot.

“Great!” I said, “ back to Home Depot?” Another chance to wander and investigate the latest useful DIY gadgets.

There was a moment of hesitation before he answered, “ we have to pick up the Captain first. “ Something in his tone gave the game away.

“Oh Lord, what’s he gone and done now?”

The truck bounced recklessly down the short track; at the bottom the Captain was being helped and escorted by the boat workers from the boat shed into the daylight. At least he was walking, although from his hunched shoulders and the protective way his left arm was held to his body this was going to need more than a band–aid to fix.

As he turned his back to slide gingerly and with obvious pain into the passenger seat I saw his elbow joint from behind. My stomach lurched violently and turned to mush. Dislocated or broken it didn’t look good and pain was etched on the pallid greyness of his face, finely misted with sweat as he tried to breath deeply and evenly.

Thank goodness we were on the big island where the hospital was close to hand. It has to be said the authorities did a fabulous job of hiding the signs for the ‘Emergency Room’ behind an unbelievable amount of construction work going on at the hospital.

We found a sign saying ‘Ambulatory Patients’: we went for that in the absence of anything else only to find we were on the wrong side of the hospital. Another circuit of the hospital perimeter in the truck, several bumps in the road eliciting groans from the Captain and finally, to the relief of us all, we found the entrance.

Shock is an interesting thing to observe in someone else. In my spouse he defaults to ‘Captain on the bridge mode’; business like, efficient, taking charge. The insurance cards were already in my hands but the Captain instructed me four or five times what cards would be needed and phone calls that would have to be made, and oh! Human Resources at the office would need to be informed. The fact it was past midnight in Europe wasn’t registering, nor was the fact everything was already in hand.

It was a relief to walk into the building and pass the Captain over to people who knew how to help, who could start to alleviate his pain. Mr. Mike and I were left to deal with the administration process.

Let me say here and now the process was straightforward and easy. We were foreigners but brandishing insurance and credit cards and spoke the same language. The lady behind the desk was courteous, concerned and helpful – what more could we ask?

The Captain’s befuddled hope the hospital would claim the cost of his visit through our insurance company was never going to float; signs everywhere were clear how much a visit to this clean, efficient hospital would be for a non-Canadian. We had no problem with that.

I was told to go straight through to see my suffering spouse while Mr. Mike returned to the boatyard to reassure the guys they would not be sued. It seems the Captain had stepped over a heavy-duty wire cable, used to winch the boat out of the water. He’d navigated it several times with no problem but the third time missed his footing and been hurtled forward onto pretty unforgiving concrete.

I found the Captain propped up on a bed surrounded by machines monitoring heart rate and breathing, with heparin lock already needled in place in his arm, oxygen monitor clipped to the end of his finger.

They’d tried to cut off his T-shirt but he’d resisted and insisted he could remove it himself.

‘It was my best Calvin Klein one,’ he’d muttered cheerfully, obviously relieved to be in professional hands. I wondered fleeting why he’d been wearing it for painting.

He was quite agitated by not being able to see the heart monitor behind him, so I gave him a running commentary on how he was doing. Apparently it’s at times like this that men his age have heart attacks. I wondered what on earth he’s been reading lately.

Within seconds Lindsey appeared, a young (she looked about 12) very professional nurse who had arrived to administer pain relief. No messing about, Morphine. It struck me like a thunderbolt: after initial assessment the Captain was being given immediate, heavy duty pain relief without us having to ask, insist or beg. Not only that, she made it clear from the outset that nothing would be done to his arm without him being completely pain free. Wow: a phrase I’ve never heard used in the Netherlands.

A portable x-ray machine was brought to his bed and within seconds a digital image was there for Dr. Shepard to see, (no I haven’t made the name up and Grey’s Anatomy fans will understand why the Captain kept referring to him as Dr. Dreamy).

The elbow was badly dislocated but not broken. It would be put back into place while the Captain was under general anesthetic for 5 minutes; another x-ray would be taken to ensure everything was as it should be then we could go home.

I moved through to the waiting area, having no wish to watch the proceedings, knowing the Captain was in safe hands. Mr. Mike had returned from the boatyard and there was little to do but wait.

By this time things were starting to liven up a tad. School was out for the day so children were turning up, along with several domestic injuries involving blood and burns. With each arrival the staff were efficient, caring and professional, but most of all kind and concerned.

We left the hospital feeling we’d had the best treatment possible, administered by caring professionals. Admittedly we haven’t had the final bill and may feel differently when it arrives, but we can’t fault the staff and care of Nanaimo hospital. And his x-rays were emailed to us before we left the hospital.

The Captain will be in a sling for two weeks, followed by physiotherapy when we get home. Further maritime outings will have to be curtailed but he is pain free (unless he moves) and confident in the treatment and advice he’s been given (he checked on Google).

However, he would like to make it clear to readers that this mishap was not the result of his inability to successfully put one foot in front of the other, but an heroic attempt on his part to rescue a young adorable puppy he swears was trapped near the back of the boatshed.

About wordgeyser

Our anglo/american family used to live in four countries (USA, Canada, UK and the Netherlands) on two continents, separated by distance, time zones, circumstance and cultures. It has been a scary, enriching, challenging place to be. The only things guaranteed to get us through were a sense of humour and the amazing people met along the way. . . This year everything changed with a move for us from the Netherlands, – and a move along with us for our son and his wife from the UK – to Houston, Texas, the same city as our daughter. With our youngest in Vancouver, Canada, we are now all living on the same continent. How this happened, and more importantly why, will be the subject of this ongoing blog...
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10 Responses to When the Captain decided to check out the quality of Canadian Emergency Care

  1. On behalf of the puppy, I’d like to thank the Captain for his heroic, selfless efforts. It sounds like a truly ghastly accident, painful both to experience and to observe. I do hope he’s feeling better (you too), and am sorry that you curtailed your vacation. Getting away is important, especially to visit good friends in such a beautiful environment.

  2. Jane says:

    What an adventure! I hope The Captain recovers well….a true dog-lover obviously!

  3. Byron Eaton says:

    Sorry the Master Mariner is suffering. All things pass. As we well know.

  4. Sorry to hear about the injury, very heroic though, rescuing the puppy, beautiful ending. To cheer you up…here it’s raining, raining and raining… Rxx

  5. Sara C says:

    I hope the captain is feeling better. I’m enjoying your tales of Canadian adventures- all sounded great before the mishap. I mean the heroic puppy rescue. Just arrived in Houston myself where the hazards are a bit more mundane- pick-up driving texans on busy freeways and heat stroke. Which is why we’ll only visit my eldest for 2 days before heading to California where only the traffic threatens. Take care and enjoy!

    • wordgeyser says:

      Texas sounds fun although heat stroke not so much! Today has been one of quiet relaxation – reading while watching soft rain fall, and keeping the Captain from anything too strenuous like moving. Have a wonderful trip yourself

  6. Sheila says:

    sorry to hear the Captain had an accident, pleased nothing is broken! After yesterdays beautiful blogg of a tranquil life, with delighful place names and no phones the place seemed like heaven.
    However good to know there is also the most up todate facilities close by and kind considerate people on hand to help in an emergency!

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