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February 2008 - Nr. 2


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Letter from the Editor

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister  

Dear Reader

Surely you feel totally stumped, just as I do, about this crazy winter weather. It looks great but is a nuisance in the city, regardless how pretty the winter wonderland is. (See our front page)

The last blast that enveloped us cost a lot of manpower to get cleared off the sidewalks and roads. There is a bylaw in Toronto that states that sidewalks have to be cleared within 12 hours after a snowstorm. However, most homeowners and tenants appear not to know that fact and just barely clear a path from the sidewalk to their house, yet leave the sidewalk slippery and dangerous for the rest of the pedestrians.

Apartment buildings have a superintendent, who takes care of this duty, but there are smaller Snow in the citybuildings that do not have a caretaker and thus there is no clearing either.

This makes it very difficult to get out, especially for older people that need to get around without a car.

We always clear the snow as soon as possible, before it becomes walked on, which makes it harder to remove, even if we have to do it more than once, front and back, and hope that the good example will eventually be followed, but so far no luck.

January was not only crazy weather-wise. My own life was somewhat disrupted by unexpected events. I suddenly required hospitalisation and ended up on a cardio ward in a downtown hospital.

I was very anxious about going to a hospital having heard all the horror stories of impossible, uncaring and lazy nurses and personnel, and I was surprised. It was quite different from what I expected. It is certainly true that an emergency area is chaotic, that often times the wait is long, even too long. But what must never be forgotten is the reason why that is the case.

I arrived in the early afternoon by ambulance, whose attendants were superbly professional and helped me right away with all the right actions. At the emergency they continued to care for me until a bed was found within that department, which actually did take a few hours. After I had been bedded in the actual emergency ward and all the basic tests had been conducted it was 10 pm and I was wheeled into another area of the same ward, from where I was moved onto the cardio ward sometime the next morning. I was not allowed to move or go anywhere from my bed until all the results were in. In the intensive care unit more tests, then a move to another room, and back and back again.

During the night it was like grand central station on the emergency floor. I was near the nurses station and their continued activities kept me awake most of the night; besides, they came every couple of hours to do all sorts of tests and I had to use the unspeakable facilities after heavy water pills.

The doctors and interns that took care of me, as well as the nurses, all were incredibly professional and reasonably caring in their hurried way. There were degrees of differences, according to varying personalities, but no problems. No one was impatient or snippy, as I had heard of so often.

One of the cardiologists came with a portable apparatus to investigate my heart. He did not want to wait till the next morning, when I was booked for it.

All through my stay in the Western Hospital I watched and waited for something to go wrong but it did not! I was treated like a queen, and I always felt safe!

The nurse that took care of me also had 5 other patients; none of them were routine. What I could see without explanation was why problems exist: Even on the cardio ward are patients that do not belong there, like geriatric patients that should be in a different permanent care facility, as do some of the homeless people that are being put wherever there is a bed, often times at the expense of even private or semi-private patients. Especially downtown Toronto has a high share of homeless patients, up to 30% on some wards, was explained to me.

This situation is not brought about by the caregivers but makes their lives impossibly difficult and acute patients can be put in a situation where they have to wait unduly long because beds are taken up by people that belong somewhere else.

Under these circumstances even mistakes can happen (they are not made deliberately) and it pays to be diligent as a patient and not abdicate all responsibility to the caregivers. They did not put us there; we had something to do with arriving at that moment. We are responsible for our bodies before, during and after the hospital stay. Let us not forget that.

The doctors and nurses that work in these facilities are there because they wanted to help. I only observed one person that I personally would have reprimanded. She was more interested in discussing make-up with other younger nurses than she was interested in the well being of the patients in her care. Thank goodness she was not the top person in charge. Her behaviour did not encourage confidence in the department for after-care of certain investigative procedures.

Poor governmental policies and administrations are responsible for the chaos when it occurs. I for one can only admire the men and women that work 12 or more hours every day to take care of our bodies. The professional healthcare givers deserve our respect. That is what will keep them working with and for us, not useless attacks on their integrity.

There is just one thing I really have a beef about: I wish a hospital would be quieter. From the last time I was inside one as a teenager I recall hushed sounds. It was wonderfully peaceful and let me dream. Not much of a chance here and now.

So much in a nutshell about the hospital situation as I observed it. I do want to thank the many well-wishers who cared enough to enquire about my wellbeing when they heard of my health situation. I truly appreciate their concern for me. Greetings from the door stepsNot to worry! I plan on sticking around for a long time! I still have a lot to say and write and I plan on doing it, my way!

Until next time

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister


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