A new emigrant’s first brush with a doctor in Canada

The  Walk in Clinic
So,here I was,middle aged hale and hearty on a warm Monday morning, having spent more than 14 months as a Permanent Resident of Canada and still shy of seeing a Doctor. Pretty Cool eh !
Little did I know that a change was coming…The day started routinely enough….a 10 am weekly meeting, with the boss hauling us over hot coals for poor billing and even poorer collections !
That barbecue session ended at 1 pm  and after a quick lunch with the guys it was time to hit the road to bring home the moolah for the company and rake in the commissions.
That’s  when the fun started…I had noticed but dismissed, breathlessness over the past two weeks especially while climbing up a flight of stairs but today it was more pronounced.
Uneasy lies the heart that experiences shortness of breath and so I decided to immediately see a doctor. But hey  wait….this is Canada buddy.. you cannot just walk into any doctor’s office and ask to to see the good doctor,hippocratic oath can go for a hike over the mountains of Vancouver !
For the uninformed, there are two types of medical clinics in Canada. Those, where the doctors will only see you if they are your ‘ family doctor ‘. This essentially means that all doctors fix their ‘quota’ of patients and those are only the ones they would examine,come rain,sun,snow and everything in between.And then there are clinics whose billboard go, ‘ We accept walk in patients ‘, which is where
I walked in.
And btw,in Canada, although healthcare is free for all, unless you are in imminent danger of dying, you cannot just walk into one of those big hospitals and ask to be attended to ( shortness of breath, palpitations, nausea and vomiting do not  necessarily count ). Anyways, I seem to be digressing from the main story…
After a  good one hour wait which was spent googling ‘ shortness of breath ‘, ‘healthy food ‘ and WhatsApping, I finally came face to face with my first  Canadian doctor who immediately proceeded to put the fear of god and most of his disciples into me by solemnly declaring  that he was ‘ most concerned ‘ after hearing description of my symptoms. A quick BP check ( 140/80)  and a stable ECG did not lessen his concerns who now  ‘strongly urged me’, ( a favourite Canadian term for ‘do it right away as***le ) to rush to the nearest hospital.
The Emergency Room
So, of I drove, alone, 10 kilometers away to the Credit Valley hospital in Mississauga, my mind full of  those juicy morbid thoughts of going before time to the land of beyond. Thankful for the ample parking while silently cursing the $ 3 per hour parking fee, I walked into the Emergency wing of the hospital.
At the entrance,the hospital’s first line of defence was a screening girl who after verbally ‘ screening’  me to confirm that I was indeed alive, strongly urged me  to stand ‘just behind that ‘  yellow line ‘ and wait for my turn to duel with the hospital’s second line of defence..the triage nurse.
This lady too, after verbally confirming that I was indeed alive, proceeded to cheerfully ask me my reason for paying an urgent visit to the Emergency Wing of the hospital.However, before I could take a breath to say..Breathlessness, she brilliantly deduced that it was probably my family doctor who sent me to her ! And that conversation ended there.
Once again a proof of life was given by me to her via BP, Oxygen level and thermometer check and I was then asked to go sit on one of the ‘blue chairs’ to await my turn for formal registration at the hospital.
After a almost 20 mins wait ( the time varies depending upon the number of ’emergencies’, I now got an opportunity to lock horns with the hospital’s third line of defence ,the registration desk.
Now here,although they did not verbally or clinically confirm that I was actually alive, they did seem to believe that I was not who I  claimed to be and so I had to handover my Ontario health insurance card over to them and then play  a rapid fire question answer round, accurately answering all the questions related to my place of residence and my spouse.
After  successfully passing this hurdle, I was double tagged on my wrist, one for my identity and the other for my penicillin allergy. I was then handed over a bunch of papers and asked to follow the ‘ black arrows ‘ on the floor and keep walking until I reached the actual emergency room aka ‘ Flex ER ‘.
By now almost two and a half hours had elapsed since my emergency was triggered and so I decided  that emptying the bladder &  re hydrating myself took precedence over undergoing some hardcore emergency room treatment.
The Treatment
This was it..I was inside the belly of the beast. Come what may,there was no going back now, neither for me nor the hospital. I was to get the ‘ full treatment ‘.
The drill inside the ER was quite simple. Sit in one of the chairs if any is empty and wait for your turn
( around one hour )…give samples for blood work. Sit tight again for about forty five minutes to an hour until one of the eight examination rooms become free.
Once inside change into hospital gown and wait  again ( 45 minutes) to get BP, temperature and oxygen level checked. Ultimately all that waiting, weighed me down and I start cursing myself for not having taken out a hefty life insurance policy and made my  ‘ will ‘.
After another hour’s wait the doctor finally docked in and the wide smile on her face as she started discussing my symptoms and results of the blood work, told me that I had managed to dodge a bullet at least today.
But wait, it wasn’t over yet for me…the doctor still had to sign off on my ‘discharge papers’. So there I was,waiting patiently once again, only this time I didn’t feel like a patient !!
After one more hour of waiting interspersed with a trip to Tim Horton’s ( my first liquid or solid refreshment  after more than nine hours),the doctor finally came up to me and declared that I was fit enough to return to my loved ones.
Not exactly jumping with joy but almost dizzy with relief, I drove back home quite mindful of the fact that the day could well have ended with me in one of the hospital rooms facing uncertainty and  further ‘ investigations ‘ and my family back at home, wondering when and where  they would be able to see me.

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