How I spent the “Family Day”!

Ontario celebrated its first Family Day on Monday, February 18th 2008. It’s a well earned break from the usually dreary February blahs. This year it was a break from the particularily snowy winter. I decided to spend the day relaxing and went out with a friends for brunch and to check out the Eaton Centre downtown.  And that’s when it all sort of went south.

I had a bad cold a little while ago and was feeling much better, except for the recurring burning sensation in my chest. It felt like indigestion or heartburn.  The pharmacist recommended some tablets which helped for while, but the pain returned. On Monday, as I prepared to go out for brunch I also felt a strange twitching feeling in my chest. Not in my heart, but in the muscle of my chest. Strange.

We went out for a great brunch at Fran’s Restuarant, a Toronto landmark, and then walked over to the Eaton Centre which is nearby. While there, the ongoing burning sensation and twitching were now accompanied with a feeling of being light-headed.  I quickly came to the realization that this was not good. We retraced our steps, past Fran’s to nearby St. Michael’s Hospital

In a very short while I was admitted to  the E.R. where I was sure the doctor would say it was just gas, and that I should take a pill and go home.  Well it didn’t exactly take place that way. The doctor did say he was pretty sure it was not a heart attack, but that at my age (I cringed) it was better to be sure. He ordered some blood work that would look for enzymes that reveal a heart attack. One such test now and one at 9:00 p.m. Ugh!! I hadn’t planned on staying that long! He also ordered an ECG and X-Ray.  Before long I was hooked up to every machine imaginable and monitered to an inch of my life!  I must admit I felt safe. If anything bad was happening, I was now in the right place.

To make a long story short, they found no evidence of a heart attack. Thank God! It still may be a case of some blockage or possibly pain caused as an effect of all the coughing with my cold. I’m seeing my physician on Thursday for follow-up. 

Now the reason I am sharing all this with you is not so much the medical report but my experience of being in hospital. You see, this was pretty much my first time. I’ve never been sick or needing to be in hospital.  St. Michael’s Hospital, founded by the amazing Sisters of St. Joseph, is in the down-town core of Toronto. There are lots of homeless and poor in the community. The hospital attracts drug addicts, the mentally ill and the occasional friar (not always easy to tell apart!) During my time at St. Mike’s I was amazed by the quality of care that I received and the kindness with which it was given.  What was even more outstanding was that everyone there received the same care. I’m not saying that everything is perfect there all the time. But, I can say quite clearly, that the time I spent at St. Mike’s I witnessed care and compassion that does honour to the staff and to the hospital.

Let me give you an example. There was a man near me who seemed to have some mental health issues. Ok, that’s putting it mildly; he was as crazy as a loon. He did a lot of yelling and cursing and just being a pain.  At one point we heard some rather strange bodily sounds, some crash and bang, and there he was in the hall, his IV pulled out and blood pouring all over the floor and walls. He had also soiled himself, the bed and the area. The odour was disgusting.

The nurse came quickly and the poor woman didn’t know where to start. She called for help and just dove in to help him.  Now I was stuck in that bed of mine, attached to all the machines… and I wanted to run because it smelled so bad. The nurse didn’t even flinch. Now, I don’t know what was going on in her head, but on the outside she was together.  There was not a word of anger or frustration, but only care and concern for the man.  The same was true of the staff that came to take him down for a shower or the ones who cleaned the cubicle in the E.R. 

What I witnessed at St. Michael’s Hospital  in Toronto was a compassion that was of the calibre of Mother Theresa or Damien of Molokai.  I’m sure the nurse in question would not agree, but I saw it with my own eyes.  I left the hospital late at night praising God for a relatively clean bill of health. I left the hospital grateful for our Canadian health system which took such good care of me, and not just me, but the poor and powerless. I left the hospital humbled by the courage and generosity of nurses, doctors and staff at St. Mikes.  They gave me quite an example of what Family is all about.  Happy Family Day.

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5 thoughts on “How I spent the “Family Day”!

  1. A bit scary experience of yours. Thanks God for your quick decision to go to the hospital and that very “assured treatment” you have received from the community of St. Mikes. Grace is at work here….

    It’s amazing that inspite of your condition you were still deeply connected with compassion with people of different conditions in the hospital.

    It’s a common knowledge to many people that yesterday was also your “big” day coincidentally falls on the first “family day” and first experience in the hospital.That, you have an “instant ” experience of a family that gives you the support. Still a day of grace… Praise God!

    Take care Friar Rick and I hope you are now fine. Oh! you still have an appointment with your family doctor…. we’ll pray for you that everything will be fine. Take things easy at the same time…..

  2. I’m very glad your ok. That can be scarry. I think it takes special people to be nurses. I’m certainly not equiped to do that work.

    I though for awhile you were going to say you were headed off to Warsaw, after you saw the crazy as a loon guy in the hosiptal.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/10/AR2008021002435_pf.html

    When my uncle was in the hospital the last 6 months of his life, I was amazed that all the nurses would make the rounds to see him.

    Apparently due to their jobs they keep alot internal and don’t get a chance to unload on anyone.

    It was rather strange, becuase he had lost sight in both eyes and he was unable to say mass anymore after 50 years. He felt that he was simply a burden on others and wanted to die. Well in the hospital he hear more confessions then he had in the past 5 years.

    He also was able to hear that many of those nurses and doctors he had baptised or married their parents. Somehow it seemed to give him confirmation on a life well lead.

    I don’t go into hospitals much either, but when I do it’s the one place in the secular world where the Gospel rubber hits the road. Life,death, suffering, recovery.

  3. I’m happy to concur with your opinion of the quality of care at St. Michael’s Hospital. They are great now and also have a long history of being great. In 73 I was treated like a queen…in 93 my mother-in-law and the entire family was treated royally and again in 2004 my cousin’s family was treatedwith real dignity and compassion. Not all the events had happy endings but the care was always “Great”.

    Thank-you for sharing your experience.

  4. You did very well to play it safe. Happened to me a couple of years ago ….. Happy to know it’s all over now and your brothers and parishioners are happy to have you back among them.

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