Friday, December 13, 2013



The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Voice reader shares medical odyssey, thanks docs and nurses

Submitted by J. Woodroff, Chwk


n October 11th,  I underwent surgery to revise my left hip replacement. It had fallen apart and had been troubling me for some time.


I quite literally loathed the idea of another surgery on the hip (as it had already been revised once due to a dislocation suffered in the hospital immediately following surgery, in 2011). I had lost a lot of my faith in the medical community due to that experience. I felt abandoned and a little abused and was finding it difficult to muster up the kind of trust in the skill of others as surgical intervention demands.


My surgeon was the extremely capable Dr. Van der Merwe. He was the first difference I noted between my treatment in Vancouver at the hands of the “best orthopaedic surgeons in the province” and my treatment here, in Chilliwack. He not only managed to push me to the head of the line (as my condition demanded emergency surgery), he attended to my progress every step of the way. Not one day went by in hospital when he was not at my bedside, checking on my progress. By way of comparison, I saw neither of the surgeons involved in my three surgeries in Vancouver after the recovery room. Not once. Neither of them.

Unfortunately, a longstanding infection was found in my bone following surgery. This “passenger” had been lurking in my body since 2011, unbeknownst to me. To add to the difficult recovery I was about to undertake for a delicate hip revision, then, I now added six weeks of intravenous antibiotic therapy and a further three months of oral antibiotics, under the guidance of Dr. Markanday, another of Chilliwack's rock star physicians.

I was furious. Not only had my hip been dislocated right after it was “fixed”, it had been infected by a virus in the process.


Adding to my sense of both insult and injury was the fact I had been preparing to check out of the hospital when the nurse came to give me this odious news. I said only one word — which may not be printed here.

To cut a long story short, I have been on a journey that was unexpected in many ways. I did not expect to suddenly fall ill as I launched a small business, worked on a book and sought to re-position myself in the world in the wake of a major life upheaval, but I also didn't expect to discover an army of heroes to accompany me on that journey.

From the lab technicians who took my blood, to the imaging technicians who took my x-rays and CT scan, from the nurse who stayed with me through my final bag of corrosive vancomycin prior to the installation of the intravenous prophylactic, the PICC line, to the Sodexho cleaner who chatted with me about her work as she mopped — I discovered a world within a world that is populated by compassionate, talented and seemingly tireless people.

The PICC line nurses and the truly miraculous work they do, the IV nurses and their kindness and patience, the welcoming smiles of the receptionists in ambulatory care, the volunteers offering blankets, the interns in ER ministering to screaming babies and the professionalism of the Home Care nurses...the support of every single one of these people made my now returning health possible. I wish I knew all their names so I could share them here in order to honour them in the community they so deftly serve.

I want everyone in this city to know what we have in our medical services, as challenged as they are with limited resources. We are about to lose the superlative Dr. Van der Merwe, unfortunately (to the frozen climes of Saskatchewan). Fraser Health's finances are being “reviewed” by an intransigent Health Ministry. We have lost our sub-acute ward and there aren't enough GPs to go around by a long shot. Nonetheless, the medical professionals in our community should make us all proud and grateful.

I can't thank them enough for all they do for their neighbours — including me.


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