Keep calm and open wide …


I may be on the case for getting most things sorted following our move to Canada, but 10 months in, there’s been one item which has constantly been re-prioritised and moved down the list …. never to appear at the top.  I’ve done doctors, schools, swimming classes, art classes, realtors, solicitors, window cleaners, car dealers, tax returns … the list has been endless.  I’ll just say one word …. dentist.  Say no more.

I wasn’t ignoring it as such.  In fact, I had this rather bizarre and extreme thought that maybe I could continue to visit my UK dentist on the rare ‘once a year’ return trips back home.  I accept it’s a rather expensive reason for a ‘trip’ just to have an annual checkup – in every way possible – costs, time and distance.  All, just to have our gnashers checked.  My experience of dentists has not been positive, and it’s been a dull ache in the back of my mind, knowing it had to get sorted in some shape or form.  Rather than being in denial, I’ve moved it into a new category entitled, ‘things to procrastinate over’.  As another form of delay, it’s been sat there for the last few months as an item on the ‘to-do’ list as soon as the kids go back to school.


Anyhow, circumstance have taken their own course, and 2 weeks ago my youngest kid went on a ‘playdate’ with a friend she’d met at her swimming class.  Turns out, her mother is a dental nurse and provided a strong recommendation of a place to visit – literally, just round the corner.  So, contact them I did and this week, the kids all went for their first visit to a Canadian dentist.

I’ll say it now.  The whole experience, from start to finish (apart from the fact we turned up at the dentist and left again), bore no relation at all, to any previous experience of going to a dentist in all my 43 years on this earth. Suffice to say, I think the Canadians have developed the ideal solution for maintaining kids teeth and providing strong incentives for them to look after them properly …..

My research-bed for making such a rash statement isn’t large – I’ll grant you that.  In fact, based solely on 1 dentist visit alone.  But if it’s positive, fun, engaging and interesting – gets both kids and adults conscious about their teeth and preventative ways of looking after them, that can be only a good thing.  That’s not to say my UK dentist isn’t good.  I’ve never had any complaints – apart from having to go every 9 months.  He is always polite, informative, and friendly – and welcomes me through the doors.  The hygienist can talk the hind legs off a donkey, but given I’m often prevented from contributing to the discussion due to the various cleaning implements and tools she lodges in my mouth during the process, it is usually more a one-sided tirade on the issues of the day, which often sees me just nodding with acknowledgement and resignation.


So, back to Canada.  Each of the kids were in the ‘chair’ and having their teeth and mouth cleaned and checked for 1 hour apiece.  How do you keep 3 kids occupied during this process I hear you ask?  TV’s of course – set into the ceiling above each chair along with a set of personal headphones which they can put on (plus a remote control to change the channels – obviously), whilst the dental nurse does all the necessaries on their gnashers.  X-rays taken from every angle, shown on laptops and used to assess the health of their teeth.  All were shown how to brush and floss – and a dye put on their teeth to visually demonstrate that despite my middle kid’s frantic attempts to suddenly brush properly that morning, plaque was still in evidence.  Whilst all 3 have usually been pretty good where teeth are concerned, it acted as a super real-life demonstration of how they needed to ‘up their game’ with their teeth.  Once clean, the dentist also reviewed all the x-rays, teeth and feedback from the nurses to make her own assessment.  The ‘winning’ formula also included a ‘goody bag’ upon departure – not just a sticker which they’ve always previously received from the dentist at home (I even remember getting one each time I visited when I was little, and don’t get me wrong, was something to look forward to on each visit in the UK) – but this bag had a range of flossing tools, toothbrush, toothpaste and several kids mini-toys.  The toys were tokens rather than valuable expenses, and to say it was a bonus feature, would be an understatement.  The kids were delighted and distraught to be leaving – I was beginning to wonder if we would have to be forcibly removed from the premises, such was their reluctance to depart so soon.


Has it lasted I hear you ask?  Well, so far since their visit, the kids have been much more attentive and focused on spending time in the bathroom getting their teeth clean and flossed, rather than creating potions with the soap and shampoo, and leaving them to congeal on the facecloths, sink and floor.  Time will no doubt tell.

That said, I’m glad I finally got round to sorting it out.  Now for my turn.  I’m due for my checkup next week and it’s set me wondering about what will be in my goody bag?  Now where’s that floss …… 🙂

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


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 🙂