Mobility madness …

I’ve always admired those with the innate ability to stand on one leg, perfectly postured, calmly maintaining their position whilst contemplating life and chanting meditative techniques.  My current mobility challenge of having to only utilise one lower limb, has forced me to adopt a whole new range of similar poses but with all the grace of a lame duck, and the employment of more colourful approaches to language than the traditional meditative yoga-ite might adopt.

That’s not to say I haven’t had assistance.  My trusty crutches have enabled me to ascend the stairs, albeit at the pace of a sloth.  Every now and then the kids will ‘test’ my ninja-moves, by forcing me to navigate my way around a multitude of items they’ve dropped or left lying around.  It’s a wonder I manage to remain upright at all.

Then there’s the husky.  She’s somewhat baffled by this turn of events and is quite fascinated by the ice grips on the sides of my crutches which seem to be magnetically attracting her to take a nibble every time they move.  In desperation, she keeps looking at her lead as if to say, ‘well, are we off then or what?’.In a sudden flash of inspiration, it occurred to me that there must be a whole range of mobility aids available which may assist in my maneuverings around the house.  A brand new building recently constructed on the road into Edmonton advertising ‘healthcare solutions’, was my destination of choice.  Equivalent to a top-end car showroom for the ‘healthcare mobility’ market, this place has glass windows stretching two floors in height, showcasing every type of mobility device known to man – or woman for that matter.  Hobbling in on crutches through the snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures, my husband remarked, ‘I think I’ve just had a premonition of our future‘.  From mobility scooters, to Pilates balls, to incontinence pads – this place has the lot.

Let’s just say the lure of electronic gadgets and scooters had my husband salivating at the mouth and treating the place as a ‘playground for the older gentleman’.  ‘I’ll just go and investigate’, was his refrain as he disappeared out of sight for the next hour or so.  I fleetingly caught a glimpse of him every now and then out of the corner of my eye, as he careened around the showroom testing out all manner of devices.  My only comforting thought was being thankful I hadn’t brought the other 3 kids along too …..

It occurred to me that whilst this place offers an invaluable service to the local community and those who find mobility a challenge; based on the reaction from my husband, I couldn’t help but think there is a wider market they haven’t yet tapped into …. as an additional positive, at least they also provide all surgical dressings and applications readily to hand …..Functionality and practicality goes a long way when you’ve only got one leg and despite all the latest technology, I’ve hired a wheelchair for the next few weeks until I get myself back on both feet.  My middle kid was ever so disappointed it wasn’t electronic, but this doesn’t seem to have hindered her whisking herself around the ground floor trying to determine its ‘top speed’.  Life father, like daughter …..

For me, it’s been life changing.  I now have two free arms to hold and carry stuff, clean things, make food and load the dishwasher.  It may take me a little longer than usual, but I can now do more things in the house than just sitting on the sofa.  Making a cup of tea is now in my gift, as is re-polishing the kitchen tops.  I’ve even started to master the finer intricacies of manoeuvring the chair in and out of tight spaces which I reckon should be included as a new olympic sport.

Only the husky remains bemused.  Every time I start to move, she insists on trying to race me in the chair, crawling directly underneath it, or trying to fit through the same small narrow space as the one I’m attempting to get through.  She’s a sled-dog and there’s nothing she would like more than to be harnessed up to the front of my wheelchair and pull me along.  Much like the kids, the only downside she has is her inability to react to the commands, ‘stop’ or ‘wait’!   So, whilst I’m incapacitated, I’ve come up with a new way of exercising the husky and keeping the mountain biking husband occupied ….. bikejoring.   What can possibly go wrong??  As my husband recently commented, ‘I think I’ve just had a premonition of our future‘ and maybe I’d better reserve an additional wheelchair just in case?

🙂

Thanks as ever to google images for the pics in today’s blog

Life on the sofa …

Ask me at any time prior to New Years Day, and the prospect of being able to loll on the sofa without having to move for hours on end, would’ve been a figment of my imagination and only something I could ever aspire to in the after-life.  Any futile attempts at trying to recreate this on this mortal planet usually go something along the lines of …..

  1. House goes quiet, no one in sight, opportunity sensed ….
  2. Sit down on sofa,
  3. Start watching or reading something of interest that’s been on the ‘to-do’ list for ages,
  4. After 5 minutes, kids/dog/husband (select as appropriate) then can’t find something, someone pinches someone else’s things, or an argument breaks out between one or all,
  5. Noise and tempers escalate to the point where the United Nations are needed to mediate a peace treaty,
  6. Temporary truce negotiated,
  7. Resort to the G&T.

The sofa sits there, taunting me with the prospect of relaxation and yet, never materialises.

So, following the broken leg saga and my surgeon’s instruction to keep all weight off it, I was issued with a pair of crutches (and the optional upgrade of ice grips – essential when the whole place is covered in snow and ice for another 4 months as yet) and sent home to recline on the sofa for the foreseeable future.  Bliss, you’d think.  Finally, my prayers had been answered through divine intervention …..The first week passed in somewhat of a blur …. mainly, I assume, as a result of the morphine to dampen the pain and swelling.  I vaguely recollect an abundance of assistance from my numerous tribe who diligently provided me with regular cups of tea and sandwiches for lunch just to keep me going whilst they were at school.

A fleeting visit to the hospital last week to check progress gave me a welcome change of sofa scenery.  I was greeted warmly by an orthopaedic nurse and an announcement that she would remove my dressing and take my staples out.  I didn’t look – fearing that my mind would hurl me into mental oblivion and make the whole procedure a lot worse than it actually was.

When presented with the abyss, sometimes it’s better not to look.

With gritted teeth, husband holding my hand, the nurse started the unwrapping.

I’m excited to watch this‘, declared the husband as the nurse offered me a sympathetic smile and the reassuring comment, ‘It’ll be fine.  You’ve got age and the fact you’re female on your side.  Men aged 21 – 40 are usually the worst‘.  Not sure whether this made me feel better or not?As my husband unconsciously clenched his hand around mine, bracing himself every time a staple was removed, I just tried to imagine the pain of childbirth being significantly worse.  As the nurse was halfway through the procedure, he proclaimed – ‘you’re doing really well, only another 45 to go ……..‘.  The nurse offered me a withered smile and enquired whether he was always this sarcastic.  I’m afraid so.

I admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I eventually deigned to glance at my left leg which now resembled the look of plucked chicken with malnutrition due to the loss of muscle mass.  After numerous years’ experience watching the hospital drama, ‘Casualty’ on the BBC, I had sat through a multitude of ‘operations’ and naively assumed technology had progressed to the point that keyhole surgery employed a simple – and small – 1 inch ‘cut’ as the solution of choice.  Alas, no.  Neat, it may be – but at 5 inches long and with a fair depth of an incision, it came as somewhat of a shock.   On the plus side, clearly their knives had been sharp and next time I visit, I may enquire who they use to have them sharpened as our kitchen knives could do with some enhancement and I’d be interested in employing their services …… Roll forward another week and whilst my cast has been removed, the instruction remains the same and I’m starting to climb the walls.  I’ve still got another three weeks – and on my birthday at that – until I revisit the surgeon where I’m hoping I can start to place some weight on the leg finally.

My band of merry helpers in the household have clearly tired of the novelty of meeting my every whim and desire.  I’m sure they attempt to by-pass the lounge as quickly as possible by employing every known trick to adopt the characteristics of the ‘invisible man’ such that I don’t notice them so avoid being allocated a household chore.

Me?  Well, I’d give anything to be off this sofa and able to hoover the house.  Oh the irony …..

🙂

Thanks as ever to google images for some of the pics in today’s blog

Day 1 orientation : a slight change to the agreed schedule …

Yes, we did have a plan for our first day orientation in Edmonton.  Honest.  Let’s just say events took a slightly different turn just after we awoke and we had to hastily reschedule our original plans.  But looking on the positive side, it was a useful experience going through emergency A&E at the Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.

Dudley B. Menzies Bridge (LRT and pedestrian b...

Dudley B. Menzies Bridge (LRT and pedestrian bridge) over North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only did we get to try out the ‘LRT” – local rail transit from the city centre out to the hospital (it’s a direct link you’ll be relieved to hear), and the whole process of buying tickets, working out which direction to travel and navigating our way to the right transit stop was remarkably simple.  Not only that, I couldn’t get over not having to stand in a train carriage sniffing someone’s else’s armpit and hoping there was enough oxygen to last until the train opened it’s doors at the next stop.  London Underground it is not.  Thank goodness.  In fact, it was almost akin to travelling late-morning on a rural train in the UK.  Wonderfully free of vast numbers of passengers, searing heat and stress. A pleasurably experience and one I now have complete confidence to do alone in the future.

Anyway, I digress….

The Children’s Hospital is directly opposite one of the train stops on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River.  A beautiful modern building, extremely welcoming and with excellent signage.  Getting ourselves and the ‘kids’ to the admissions area was a doddle and upon arrival, we were welcomed by a triage nurse who had both the ‘kids’ requiring medical assistance on the weighing scales, blood pressure checked and immediately assessed.  Not only that, they both received wristbands (complete with a tinker bell fairy – much to their delight) and quickly ran off to play on the touchscreen games and entertainment systems that were in the waiting room for their amusement.  With only 1 other family also awaiting assistance, it is a million miles away from my own experience of the NHS in England every time I’ve ever visited.  This was a case study example of how emergency admissions should operate (for those who are seasoned readers of my blog, you’ll detect a slight trend towards emergency services of late – click here for past blog!).   I do assure you we are not particularly accident prone, but I accept there has been a tendency to navigate towards this characteristic, especially where my ‘middle kid’ is concerned.   She didn’t let me down on this occasion either as being one of the 2 directly concerned.

911In the UK, we’ve had to wait at least 1 hour before meeting a medical professional – and that’s when there hasn’t been a myriad of similar patients awaiting for similar assessments in crowded and underfunded services.  The NHS is a brilliant service in the UK.  But overworked staff, underfunded services and a drive to keep costs as low as possible, often compromise the quality and efficiency of how people are treated.

Back to Edmonton.   The fact that not only we were ‘out of area’ but ‘out of country’, this didn’t upset the system at all and within only 5 minutes of waiting, we were called to admissions to go through to a medical room to await the doctor.  Much to the disappointment of all the ‘kids’ who were clearly about the relish the prospect of whiling away some time on the excellent touch screens and entertainment on offer.  This wasn’t to be – and all I can hope is that this isn’t kept as a dormant desire (particularly in kid number 2), who’ll have us visiting there as soon as we arrive back to live!

A doctor arrived with due haste announcing there was a ‘2 for 1’ package deal on diagnoses today and it seemed on paper that we were vying for this offer.  After a further physical assessment of both kids, a diagnosis was pronounced.  An additional senior medical professional arrived to also confirm the findings and prescriptions were presented.  We were informed that they’d only seen 2 or 3 similar cases of this in the last 3 years so it was a rare occurrence and something that needed antibiotics for treatment and would only get worse if left.  Both clinicians had learnt a lot from seeing it in practice and thanked us for coming in.  Ice lollies were then issued (obligatory I believe), and smiles all round as we went on our way and medications were dispatched and applied.

So, Day 1 Orientation.  We not only got to see where the emergency children’s hospital was, but witnessed first hand how it works, what to do, where to go, who to see.  Our experience was positive, efficient and effective – and above all, friendly and professional.  You can’t ask for more.

Would we go again?  In the nicest sense of the word, let’s hope circumstances don’t require it.  However, I wouldn’t be phased by going through the same thing again should we need to.

Lets hope ‘kid number 2’ hasn’t got alternative ideas ….

Emergency … dial 911

911

Our middle ‘kid’ was over zealous on the monkey bars and upon her second attempt to master the technique, she fell to the ground and the resulting ‘yelp’ was enough to know that it was slightly more than the average 7 year old tumble.  Visiting friends elsewhere for the weekend, we weren’t familiar with the local services but trotted off to the general hospital hoping they could help.

Considering the volumes of people presenting themselves with all manner of ailments, plus it was early on a Saturday evening (not the best day of the week to be visiting Accident & Emergency), we were admitted swiftly and with empathy.  After 3 hours, the administration of painkillers and a couple of  x-rays, we were informed that she had fractured the outside of both bones in her left wrist and a splint was applied.  She’ll heal and is now basking in the attention from her fellow classmates as she recounts the experience and demonstrates the evidence to anyone within a 15m radius.

monkey bars

It made me think about the healthcare we receive in England.

The NHS (National Health Service) was launched in 1948 and was based on three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

These three principles have guided the development of the NHS over more than 60 years and remain at its core.  Whilst it receives a high level of criticism – what often feels like on a daily basis – the level of care, the capabilities, the services and above all its qualified clinicians and staff, are valued and respected across England and worldwide.

 

So, given our move to Canada, how does the healthcare system work over there and should a similar emergency arise (perhaps with kid number 3 next time), how do we receive the care required?

 

Canada itself, is regarded as a very healthy place to live.  It has a public healthcare system which is funded by both the federal government and provincial/territorial governments – its inception was also in 1948, but wasn’t rolled out and adopted across all Canada until 1972.  It provides universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay.

Canada spend approx 11.4% of their GDP (gross domestic product) on health – in Britain, this is 9.8%.  Their spend per head is higher than the average developed country and their results see them having a higher life expectancy than many other developed countries (see my earlier blog), lower infant mortality rates and the treatment for cancer is good.  For example, screening take-up is high, as are survival rates. Almost three-quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to be alive after five years – survival rates are among the best in the world.

Their system of healthcare is known as “Medicare’ and for treatment of any kind, a health insurance card needs to be shown.  The cards are presented at a hospital or clinic when you or someone in your family needs treatment.  In most provinces and territories, each family member receives his or her own card with a personal health identification number.  Therefore, as a family relocating to Canada, we need to make sure we apply for a state medical card when we arrive and ensure we have temporary health insurance in place whilst the formalities are completed.

It does make you realise how lucky we are to have healthcare which is accessible and immediate.  It’s something that we often overlook, too readily criticise and take for granted – when a large proportion of the world population and countries receive lower than average healthcare provision, with many dying prematurely as a result.

Hospital broken leg

Clearly we’re lucky and should remind ourselves of this fact daily.  One things for sure, the next time monkey bars make an appearance, I’ll just check out where our nearest hospital is located

 

…. or call, 911 🙂