On a Friday morning in March, I was feeling quite proud of myself having had my swim, and was making my breakfast in time to eat it before my 10 am mastermind call. My fellow mastermind members normally have to endure me eating on the call (though after living in Tokyo where eating in public is not socially acceptable, I do try to cover my mouth while taking a bite – but that’s another conversation).
I must have been less present than necessary as when chopping fresh dill to add to my omelette with my brand-new kitchen knife, I miscalculated the length of my middle finger and in an instant decided to shorten it. Whoops. I knew right away that what I had done was not good, but didn’t know how bad it was.
At the entrance to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto that morning, my Love, Jacques who as you may know works for the emergency medical service was at his place about thirty minutes away and still sleeping. Not for long. I called a couple of times, the second call breaking through his “do not disturb” setting. Phew!
Oh, my, I was talking a mile a minute, telling him what happened with my hand up in the air and a paper towel compress on. I wasn’t sure if it was serious enough to need help or could be looked after at home. Jacques quickly decided that he would come. During the call, I calmed down significantly and started thinking about what I could do knowing that Jacques was on his way. I continued to regain my composure and made a few calls to figure out the next steps. I tried the following:
911 – they can’t give you advice on whether their help is required so they suggested calling our provincial telehealth line where you can speak to a nurse.
Telehealth – after a lengthy intake which includes marketing questions (that no one wants when dealing with a health issue!) I was told it would take several hours to receive a return call. Come to think of it, I have never received a callback…
My doctor’s office – they have a walk-in clinic but there were no doctors available. I could have a phone appointment with my doctor in an hour if I wished. I said yes, but didn’t anticipate hanging around.
When Jacques arrived, off we went to the local hospital emergency room.
Here’s what I noticed while there:
– When dealing with a real emergency, I talked myself through what I knew and immediately reached out for help.
– I cared about doing the “right” thing in accessing medical care. I didn’t want to unnecessarily tax our urgent care system.
– I calmed down by breathing AND talking it out. Later on, I cried out some of the stress.
– I appreciated every kindness, from Sebastian in triage letting me know he would call ahead to the treatment area and let them know I would be coming and seen quickly, to Mallory who spoke slowly and clearly when giving directions to that station. She cared that I was comprehending and wow, did I appreciate that.
I was treated quite quickly and very grateful for the thoughtful care though there was one area of service I thought could have been more nuanced and I’m curious what you think.
I tend to be a questioner (one of Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies”) and take comfort in information. I want to know what to expect. For example, I inhaled every word of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” when I was pregnant. Knowing lets me prepare.
I recognize that others are happier “not knowing”. They are ready to take whatever comes as it comes, trusting they will be able to handle it. This is my Love, Jacques. And, not gonna lie, I’m a little envious. But given that I’m me, I will likely continue to love data.
When Dr. Da Silva, the ER doc was looking after me, he let me know that part of the treatment could be very uncomfortable and freezing was an option. Jacques was with me and having seen many treatments and the associated discomfort, and knowing me and my low threshold for pain, advised me to take the numbing.
The doctor told me it would be a “poke”.
Fine, I thought. A poke I can deal with.
Um, not so much. It was painful and disturbing for somewhere between thirty seconds to a minute…or maybe longer. It certainly seemed longer.
During this part of the treatment, all of my composure was gone. I said words I shouldn’t and cried.
When the doctor came back, I said, “I don’t hate you. And, I’m sorry.”
The rest went swimmingly.
Before I left though, I let the doctor know that I would have appreciated a more realistic description of what to expect. “Poke” wasn’t the right term. I think I would have known to anchor in my breath more deeply and to expect to stay there. Closing my eyes and holding Jacques’ hand (after telling the doctor and Jacques that science says this helps) was indeed helpful but not enough.
To address the fact that some people like to know and some people don’t question, perhaps a health care provider can ask how much you want to know. I recognize that in some situations, this is not realistic, but if time allows, this question could help guide the way a practitioner proceeds.
I think of my massage therapist who moves around the table always keeping a hand on me. I think of the MRI technician who tells me how long each imaging session will be after which I can move a little bit.
What do you think?
Do you want more information or less?
And would you appreciate being asked?
If you’re a health practitioner and have an opinion, I’d love to hear it.
Find me on twitter @clarekumar.
Author: Clare Kumar