Alberta Health Services (AHS) gets a lot of grief. The pandemic didn’t help. Neither did reactionary politics or conspiratorial mutterings. The competency of our health care system has been undermined by anecdotal accounts published on social media, the radio, TV, and in print and digital media. So, if we’re to go on anecdotal accounts, here are a few:
“I had to wait in my car in the parking lot of the ER with no heat, in a blizzard, for eight hours.”
“I went to the ER, and the door was locked.”
“There were no ambulances available. So, they told us to drive her there ourselves.”
You’ll find a bunch of these if you look for them, and they all give the impression that our health system is collapsing, that treatment and service have been severely compromised. Staff shortages and burnout are a reality, yes, but many skilled professionals are still showing up for work at your local hospital.
So, if we’re to go on anecdotal accounts, here are a few from our staff and they’re very positive. In the last three years, the folks at AHS have performed critical life saving interventions on four people very close to one of our editorial staff: My mother, my wife, my son, and myself.
My mother survived a heart attack. She was rushed by ambulance from Medicine Hat to Calgary and they made it from door to door in 90 minutes. She was fitted with a stent. My wife recently went through a C-section with a condition called placenta accreta, and the surgeons had the equipment on hand to do a blood transfusion in case her hemorrhaging was extreme. I went through a critical ordeal of my own that I won’t specify here, but I was hospitalized for weeks.
My son was born at 28 weeks. He had two bad conditions, most of which was discovered through pre-delivery through ultrasound. Those were a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) and a tracheal esophageal fistula atresia (TEF). The CDH meant that when my boy was developing in the womb, the fascia on his diaphragm ripped.
His guts in his tummy creeped up into his left chest cavity and prevented him from growing a lung on that side. The TEF meant that his esophagus didn’t connect to his stomach but had rather attached to his good lung. That meant that anything he ever swallowed was going to go into his lung. That was deadly too.
When this two-pound boy came out at 28 weeks, he was dissected; his guts were extracted, the hernia stitched up, his guts placed back in an orderly fashion, and he was put on a respirator because he couldn’t breathe with only one tiny lung. Then a few weeks later, the fistula was repaired so that he could have an actual mouth to stomach pathway for food and drink.
Food and drink didn’t come for a long while, and so the doctors poked a hole into his belly through to his stomach so that he could be fed through a tube. He was attached to his feeding tube for a year, and attached to nasal prongs, a 20-foot tube and an oxygen tank for almost two years.
Two things worth mentioning in all this are the elite pros at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, who unequivocally saved my son’s life. Secondly, the Ronald MacDonald House next door was the best place on earth for those five months that my boy laid in the intensive care unit, barely hanging on. The nurses who tended to him were wonderful, and his surgeon, Dr. Andrea Lo, literally took the kid apart and pieced him back together. It was gruesome, and she’s a marvel.
In our travels in and out through the doors of hospitals we’ve met many special people—doctors, nurses, surgeons, respirologists, paramedics, health care aides, psychologists, cleaners, and security guards too. Have we had a few unpleasant experiences? Yes. Has AHS benefitted us in innumerable ways? Yes. That’s my anecdote.
We’d be down at least three family members without the saving graces of Alberta’s medical profession, and this testimonial would never have been written. For those who have been treated inadequately or poorly, I am sorry. However, I won’t contribute to that narrative because I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the work they do.
The frontline workers need support and we at the Vauxhall Advance tip our hats to all of their hard work over the last few years. COVID has been hard on everyone — especially anyone who has been on the front lines — so we thank you.