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Thursday, 8 March 2012

Welcome back. Bonjour?

I have been away from this blog for some time. I hope you have noticed. ;) haha

Struggling with some unexpected health issues and a baby suddenly stricken with separation anxiety, I haven't had a hand free to type. Hopefully, I'll be putting that behind me now. Well, not the baby, but...

This past week, I've visited an ER twice, plus a walk-in clinic. In the past nearly three years that I've lived in Montreal, I've only visited a walk-in clinic one other time. I'm generally healthy, thank God. I also generally champion the Canadian universal health care system. I believe in its values; and I also believe we live in one of the most medically advanced nations in the world. The best of the best. Did last week force me to reconsider?

Le temps d'attente. Anglophone or francophone, you're best off recognizing this phrase if you plan on going to the ER in any way besides an ambulance. Of course, no one can tell you the waiting time. You can just swap stories with the guy sitting next to you, whine and complain to the guy cradling his broken arm. Yeah.

I waited, and waited, and waited. I listened to the anglophone nurse call triage numbers of the P.A. system. She must have been new, because she also forgot to turn off the P.A. when chatting with a francophone colleague. More than once, she announced the wrong number in French, causing us in the waiting room to giggle while the francophone nurse chided her.

"You said soixante-dix-sept."

"Right, seventy."

"But you said soixante dix-sept."


What started as comic relief began to irk me as a waste of my time. Anyway, when I was finally called in half a day later, I shuffled past sad-looking people in hospital gowns, lying on stretchers, sometimes with the privacy of a curtain, sometimes not. It was dark and dreary. It looked like the ER of a third-world country.

And then the most amazing thing happened. Into my curtained room popped a nurse, in cheerful humour, joking with me as he took ten vials of blood. I've fainted from blood draws before; this time, I was laughing. He assured me the doctor would be there soon. I rolled my eyes, but sure enough, he was there in less than five minutes. He assessed my situation with an expert eye, professional, upbeat and full of energy. (It didn't hurt that he was also nice to look at...) Perfect English, yet D. Boucher was clearly Québécois. He called out instructions in both French and English, ordering an EKG, chest x-rays and a CT scan. I was wheeled directly from one to another, no time to waste.

All this to say that, once I FINALLY got through the triage process, I was thoroughly impressed with 99% of my healthcare system. I was in good hands. No, great hands. Handsome hands, yet I digress...

When I was discharged, a nurse showed me where I could change back into my clothes (ok, yes, the accommodations suck), handed me my papers. I thanked her and she said, "Bonjour," before leaving to take care of another patient. It gave me pause to smile. I remembered when I first arrived in Quebec. I had lots of phone calls to make to arrange for immigration papers, get information, make reservations, etc. At the end of each phone call, rather than the beginning, the person on the other end of the line would say, "bonjour!" I learned it as a greeting, in the beginning of a conversation, but here it took on its literal "good day" and was something to say at the end of a conversation. How many times did I raise the phone back up to my ear and repeat, "Oui?" into a receiver, thinking that the conversation had begun again? Little memories like that fill me with nostalgia for a time when I was twenty-one-years-old, a collage student, discovering this amazing city!

The snow is melting; our snowmen have lost their heads and I can see grass everywhere. Spring is here. This weekend, we will spring forward an hour. And I'm certain that spring will bring us even more adventures à la québécoise to report here!

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