Recently I have been negotiating my way through surgery, tests, diagnosis and misdiagnoses; experiencing good, timely, negligent and disrespectful care.

I have felt the advantage of living very close to good local hospitals enabling my family to easily reach me when I have needed advocacy.

Seeking and trusting advice from health care professionals can be challenging for me. I have a checkered experience including at least three life threatening health crisis events. Without luck and self-advocacy I would not be alive, today.

So, here I am again, older and wiser with more knowledge and confidence.


In this, part 1 of Stick-Handling through a Health Crisis, I arrived in the ER a week ago and met some very nice patients and caregivers.

For nearly 2 months I had been experiencing a lot of pain, fever and the inability to eat pretty much anything. After a much delayed CT scan, it had dawned on them that I had a “hole in my bowel” and needed immediate intervention. So, they sent me off to hospital ….

Emergency Waiting Room:

I started out waiting in the Emergency Department listening to the chaos and frustration around me. I decided to engage with a couple of the other patients waiting for attention over the hours. One was a single mother with a very sick young fellow in her arms. We became friendly and it helped to while away the tedium and worry. I heard about her journey from her home country in Africa, then to South Africa, and now sitting with me here in Hamilton.

I met another woman originally from Guatemala, and my family having lived in her country for a few years gave us much to share.

Emergency Room “Green Zone”

We were all eventually moved to the treatment area, otherwise known as the Green Zone. We reconnected, met family members and wished each other well.

Getting to know each other and supporting each other had raised all of our spirits.

Emergency Room “Yellow Zone”

In the Green Zone I was seen by a surgical team. They started me on some IV antibiotics but as there were no beds to be had, I was “admitted” to the hall outside the Emergency Room “Yellow Zone”.

Having to go back and forth to the washroom was interesting. I was an “ambulatory patient” and bored out of my skull so I indulged in one of my favourite pastimes, engaging with people in my path.

As I was passing on my way to the washroom I noticed an elderly Sikh woman surrounded by several of her family members. I smelled a heavenly aroma, South Asian food. The next time I was passing I asked the family if they had brought her food. They nodded in a puzzled way and so I explained my delight in the aroma coming from their cubicle.

The next morning when I was passing on my way to the washroom the Sikh woman was sitting up poking at her breakfast. She motioned to me to come and help, waving her hand at the food with a dismissive gesture. I gave her a smile but we had no shared language. I went to the nurse’s station and explained my observations of the night before and suggested that her family would undoubtedly bring food if they were called.

To be continued …