There’s been a lot of talk lately about hospital wait times and the general state of our health system. This isn’t a rant about any of that, it’s more about a strange thing that happened to me on the way to my operation. Well, I guess it wasn’t really an operation, I think it would come under the heading of a “procedure” as I was awake for the whole thing. I had to have a pacemaker installed for my slower-than-normal heartbeat.
This whole ordeal started with results I got back from a 24-hour holter test. A holter is a little device no bigger than an iPhone with wires coming out of it, and the other end of the wires attach to electrodes on stickers that are slapped all over your chest. You spend the day and overnight with this machine strapped to your body while it records your heartbeat. You keep a diary of all your daily activities and what time they happen, so when the doctors check the readout at the end of 24 hours, they can see why your heart might be speeding up or slowing down.
The reason I had this device strapped to me was because I was getting a throbbing feeling in my neck and dizzy spells. My family doctor thought it would be prudent to get the holter and see if it showed any kind of irregularity in my heart. I’m glad he did as they discovered that my heart rate was too slow! Or should I say, slower than what is considered “normal.” It was recommended that I get a pacemaker installed to make sure my heart rate stayed at a proper level and didn’t dip down into the danger zone. An appointment was scheduled for the following week. While I was waiting, I had a low heart rate episode, 32 beats per minute, that caused me to feel dizzy, and low enough to set off an alarm I had set for just such a situation on an Apple Watch my daughter loaned me.
My family doctor thought I should head to the Emergency ward, so off we went to Vancouver General Hospital. Why VGH and not Peace Arch Hospital in my hometown? Well, my appointment for my pacemaker was at VGH, so I thought if the situation was really bad, they would slap a pacemaker in me that night and I wouldn’t have to wait for my Friday appointment which was still a week away.
Let me tell you, the ER at VGH is quite an entertaining place on a Friday night. But that’s a whole other story for another time. I was attended to, shown to a bed, hooked up to a monitor, and told a cardiologist would come by to see me. After the doctor paid a visit, and assessed my situation it was determined I wasn’t going home that night, and because they don’t do “procedures” on the weekend, I was going to stay in the hospital for at least the weekend, and hopefully get my pacemaker on the upcoming Monday.
They found a room for me at 2 AM and I tried to get some sleep. Now if you’ve ever had to spend nights in a hospital you know all about trying to get to sleep. Not only a strange bed but strange sounds all night long. I had a great room on the 10th floor with a wonderful view of the mountains, but all I really wanted to do was go home. That wasn’t in the cards. I was hooked up to a heart monitor and wasn’t allowed to leave the 10th floor. The hospital food menu lived up to its reputation, but the nursing staff, doctors, and orderlies were all wonderful people who I might say are overworked and underpaid for the marvelous things they do for their patients. But again, that’s another topic for another time.
The weekend passed slowly, Monday came and went without an opening in the operating schedule to squeeze me in, so that meant another night in the hospital. I had my fingers crossed for a Tuesday call, but due to a scheduling problem, that didn’t happen either. So on it went to Wednesday. It was then I felt a big change.
As the days and nights went by, I slept a little longer each night, and the food started to be, well, not so bad? I had some visitors which was nice, it really broke up the day, I had a TV and did I mention the great view? I wasn’t in any pain, I was being waited on hand and foot, meals were cooked and delivered to me and nurses checked on me every couple of hours, and that’s when “a strange thing started to happen on my way to my operation!” I was starting to get quite settled into my new environment, my new “home!”
As crazy as it sounds, I was beginning to enjoy my new routine, and who wouldn’t with all the positive things I’ve just mentioned. But I felt like I might have been stricken with “Stockholm Syndrome!” Yes, that’s what they call the condition when hostages develop a psychological bond with their captors! Now, I’m partly kidding of course, I wasn’t being held captive, but I was in a hotel that I could “check out any time I liked, but I could never leave!” (Thank you Eagles)
Wednesday came and went. Thursday I got my turn on the table and had the pacemaker installed. My ticker would be back to normal, or as normal as could be expected. After the procedure and some rest, I bid farewell to my home away from home. Yes, back to home sweet home, but I think I miss my little paradise in the big city, just a little bit.
Paradise may be a little overboard, but ask anyone who has spent time in any of our hospitals and I’m sure they’ll agree, that we have hard-working dedicated medical professionals saving lives every day of the week, every week of the year, and we are very grateful.
Thank you for being there for all of us.
Till next week...
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1328 Johnston Road
White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2
White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2