Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Winnipeg radio personality suffers frightening injury and discovers overburdened health-care system staffed by caring, passionate professionals
It started on a Sunday. I play rec hockey, and was in the midst of a heated battle when a puck found the soft underside of my glove and mashed my pinky.
It hurt. A lot.
I have lost many painful arguments with pucks before, but this one felt "different." No matter, I had a game to finish and another to play right after, and I wasn't going to let one of the smallest bones in my body bring me down.
I finished the game with a goal and buddy-taped my fingers together in order to play the second contest. I counted two assists in that one (a very rare opportunity to brag, thank you).
After the games, my finger was swollen up like a purple balloon. It didn't feel right doing certain things, but when taped together with its neighbour, it seemed to be up to the task of hockey, which was enough for me.
However, by Wednesday, the swelling had gone down substantially, and I discovered that I could wiggle the two pieces of the distal phalanx of the fourth finger (fancy-pants talk for the wee tip bone of the pinky.)
Having discovered that my finger was indeed broken, I decided I had better go and get it looked at. Sigh.
Emergency Rooms? No, thanks. I have left ERs with untreated hockey-related injuries before because of the wait.
I decided to check out Pan Am, a true sports-medicine clinic. The parking lot was jam-packed when I pulled in, obviously not a good sign. As I entered, a big sign proclaimed "There is a six-plus hour wait to be seen AFTER the nurse sees you."
Exasperated, I left. So, this is what health care has been reduced to in Winnipeg. An absolute shambles!
"Why should I have to pay good tax dollars for health care when I don't even get to use it?" I thought as I stomped back to my car.
I had a game the next day, so I taped up and headed out on the ice. Then it happened. First shift... THUD! I don't know how, but the full force of the puck struck me square in the adam's apple. I gasped, dropped my stick and glove and clutched my throat. I started saying "What the hell..." but the voice coming out was not mine. It sounded more like one of those unfortunate souls who got throat cancer and had their larynx removed.
I started spewing profanity not even suitable for an adult rec game at 11 p.m., and that is saying a lot.
In case you don't know, I am a radio personality and kind of need my voice. I managed to get off the ice, change and drive myself to the emergency room at Victoria Hospital. Little did I know that I was about to have a completely different health-care experience.
I paid for one hour of parking (ha!) and took a seat in these orange chairs, positioned right in front of the triage nurse, where you audition to be the next contestant in "Let's Get Seen By A Medical Professional."
I started with the sad, puppy-dog-eye look in an attempt to earn sympathy from the triage nurse and get seen quickly, but she was savvy and all business.
In the next couple of minutes, however, the acting was replaced by real fear and concern. I could barely swallow, I could taste blood and I felt like my lungs were taking on a mixture of that and saliva.
I started to get scared, wondering if I would ever speak properly or maybe stop breathing altogether. The triage nurse noticed and I was quickly summoned to her desk, interviewed and whisked into a room. A friendly nurse named Cheryl did a quick exam, checked my vitals and said the doctor would be in to see me right away.
I looked around the room and the monitors said 'RESUS' on them. Resus... resus... resuscitation?
Now I was starting to worry. As much as no one wants to wait six hours to see a doctor in the ER, you certainly don't want to see one in 20 minutes. I tried to occupy myself with my phone (I don't believe you are supposed to use it in Emergency, but no one seemed to mind). After snapping a few pictures and posting: "Puck to throat. At Emergency. Can't Speak. Worried." on my Facebook, my phone died.
Uh-oh. Not only will people who see the post panic, but I won't be able to give updates.
The doctor came in, a chipper guy, who got right to business. Cringed when I told him about the incident. Chuckled when I showed him my finger injury from earlier in the week and suggested I take up a safer sport.
Asked some questions, poked around and told me that I would need a CT scan and the Vic didn't do that overnight. I would have to be taken by ambulance to Health Sciences Centre.
I wasn't happy at all about that. The people were so nice and caring at the Vic, so comforting and professional. I've read and seen negative news reports about HSC and I was apprehensive.
It was important though, so off for my first ambulance ride. The two EMTs, the paramedic trainee and the respiratory aide who accompanied me were so nice. Nurse Cathy gave me an anti-inflammatory, some pain meds and even some anti-nausea medication (the Winnipeg streets, she explained). They asked me to tell them -- in my Dirty Harry voice -- what had happened.
We arrived at HSC in minutes and sat in a quiet hallway waiting for the CT scan. The scan was quick, and then I was admitted.
I found out later it was because I had cracked the cartilage in my larynx (voice box) and they were concerned I might lose my airway during transport back to Victoria.
As I waited for a spot in the ER, the paramedics sat with me, joked and kept me company. I really felt cared for every step of the way.
I spent a few hours there and then was moved to a step-down unit. These are big, open rooms with several beds, where nurse-to-patient ratio is 2 to 1. I honestly felt out of place here, but the nurses weren't having any of that.
The way Sueli, Victoria and Rebecca dealt with the other patients really warmed my heart.
There was one gentleman who had surgery to repair an aneurism and he was a little disoriented. It seemed to me that though he was in his mid-60s, he believed he was at a work camp, planting trees. He kept trying to get out of bed and leave for work. Even after the 10th time, the nurses calmly and sweetly told him he needed to rest and tucked him back in bed.
Even the more grumpy patients were given VIP treatment.
The night shift brought more of the same. The nurses -- Arlene, Romina and Hazel and Melinda, the medical aide -- were constantly there for me. They even went on a hunt for a phone charger.
Anything they did came with a complete explanation and was done with real professionalism and care. I was absolutely taken aback, as were the other patients in the ward I spoke to.
I ended up staying for about 36 hours, and the morning I left, one of the nurses from another ward brought in a phone charger from home so I could catch up on all my texts, emails and Facebook messages. (Sueli had even insisted I use her iPhone the night before so that I could let all my friends know I was OK).
It wasn't until the discharge meeting that I was told people have died from the type of injury I suffered.
This experience taught me a lot about the kind of people who work in Manitoba's health-care system. It is chock full of caring, passionate, skilled professionals who put patient care as their No. 1 goal. This wasn't just a handful of people I met over the two-day period. This was every single one.
I was flabbergasted and I now know if I have to return to this or any other hospital in Manitoba, I can feel comfort in knowing the level of care I will receive.
Our health-care system isn't perfect, but it is far better than the average person knows.
Some other things I learned:
-- Keep a phone charger with you at all times;
-- There are actually interesting articles in Vogue/ Cosmo/ Elle (though I hate to admit it);
-- I share the honour of being admitted to HSC's ER with a puck-to-throat injury with one other person: Winnipeg Jet Blake Wheeler (who apparently is taller and hunkier than I).
Thank you so much to all the incredible people I had the fortune of meeting on this sometimes scary journey.
Oh and by the way, that broken finger? They fixed it up very nicely for me.
When he's not playing hockey,
Chris Fantini is the midday host of Winnipeg radio station HOT 103.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 1, 2012 J3
(1 of 24 articles for this month)05/25/2013 1:00 AM 0