Them Pussycats is Quick!


When I spent a week in the hospital I made a discovery; the food is disgusting.

Let me explain.

Years ago I worked at the Edmonton Remand Centre in the kitchen. Now, I wouldn’t recommend that food for any five star nights out but it wasn’t bad. Perhaps a bit bland but otherwise edible. I say this so you will understand how bad hospital food actually is.

There were many meals where the smell of the food alone was enough to turn my stomach. There was one particular meal, I couldn’t tell you what the meat was, where it was so bad I was unable to eat anything because the smell was so pungent. It smelled like a combination of bad body odor and wet dog farts. For anyone who thinks I’m exaggerating, let me assure you I’m not.

At some point I felt I should go around the hospital to see if there were any stray cats because I had a sickening feeling I knew what each meal’s mystery meat was.

And the coffee.

This wasn’t even close to anything that could remotely be called coffee. It was brown and liquid but that was all it had in common with coffee. And, yes, it did taste a lot like something you might find in your toilet during a bout of the flu.

In short, the food was just this side of inedible and they’re feeding this to people who are sick and injured. Doesn’t that count as cruel and unusual punishment?

But let’s put that aside for a moment. The truth is there is not one person sitting in the legislature that would ever put up with eating food this bad for a single second. Yet I know that it’s possible to supply a large group of people better tasting food. We did it when I worked at the Edmonton Remand Centre (although admittedly I don’t know what it’s like now).

So can anyone tell me where our health care dollars are going? It’s certainly not to quality food. Anyone with any ounce of sense knows how important good, healthy food is to healing yet our government can’t even be bothered to find out if the food is edible or not.

I have a sneaking suspicion I know exactly where our health care dollars are going and it’s not to the care, diagnoses and recuperation of the sick, injured and disabled in Alberta. We have a health care system that is top heavy and is clogged with management. Again and again I’ve heard those in the health care industry whisper to me about how many managers and supervisors they have to report to. Those whispers come secretively because they’re afraid to speak out and they know those higher ups will do their best to stop any change.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not just hospitals and clinics that are top heavy. It’s all over Alberta Health. Go to their administration offices sometime and count the number in managerial or supervisory positions. Now add in various bonuses and quirks like meetings that happen on the golf course. Yes, free golfing for those in Alberta Health in manager positions.

Are you angry yet?

There is a reason the food is inedible. There is a reason there’s a three-year waiting list for a hip replacement. There is a reason hospitals in Edmonton have equipment that’s falling apart. There is a reason there’s not enough long term care facilities.

That reason is fat cats sitting in positions of power that don’t want to give up their space at the trough. Isn’t it time we demanded an accounting for our dollars? How is it that countries like Iceland or Denmark or Finland can do it and we can’t? The wait lists for NECESSARY surgery and long term care are getting longer and absolutely nothing is being done about it. Why aren’t we screaming about those at the top getting cushy wages at the expense of Albertans’ health?

I hope the cats know to steer clear of Edmonton hospitals. I’m pretty sure I know what the mystery meat is.

The Saga of the Commode

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As my readers are aware, I just finished a week in the hospital and I want to share some of the highlights of my stay. Today I’d like to talk about the Saga of the Commode. So sit and grab yourself a coffee. This is a story that never should have happened.

Before I talk about the commode, I need to do two things; explain what a commode exactly is and why I needed it.

A commode is a device that helps a person get to the toilet to do their business. It looks a lot like a chair with wheels and a hole in the seat that your ass hangs out of so you can do your deed. The patient (me, in this case) sits on the seat and a nurse or nurse’s aide can then wheel me into the bathroom. As a diabetic, I used this device a lot. The aides decided they didn’t want to perform this task and that I was perfectly capable of walking into the bathroom on my own after the second day there. I wasn’t and I’ll explain why.

This whole thing started when I slipped and fell on a wet floor and sprained the MCL ligament in my knee. Now, had things been normal, that would have been no big deal as I could have compensated for it and gone on with my life. However, things in my life are rarely normal.

Prior to this injury I had done the following;

  • Radial head fracture to the left elbow – January 2018
  • Radial head fracture to the right elbow – April 2019
  • Prior reconstruction of the ACL ligament in the left knee – 2005
  • Degenerative arthritis in the right knee

The problem was my body was so banged up that I simply couldn’t compensate for the new injury and, as a result, kept falling. After I wound up in emergency for the fifth time I demanded they admit me. I knew going home was a death trap for me. I live alone and have no one to help (more on that later).

That brings me to the commode. It was a lifesaver for me. By the time I was in the hospital, I was simply unable to walk the short distance to the bathroom. To hell with dignity, I needed to pee.

The first commode I was given had only three barely functioning brakes on it. The brakes are important when you’re getting in and out of it, especially when you’re prone to falling like I was. Having brakes that didn’t work meant I was taking my life in my hands every time I went pee. Thus, the nurses and aides were relegated to the duty of using their body weight to keep the thing still.

I’m a large woman. If that thing slipped, not only was I going to do damage to myself but I was taking out whatever poor sod had the misfortune of trying to keep the thing still.

The second commode had functioning brakes but the armrests fell off leaving two metal spikes where the armrests should be. One nurse scratched herself on it and another commode was found.

The third commode had one functioning armrest and three decent brakes. It still was a bit shaky but better than the first two. Problem was it was narrow and me and my roommate were of the larger lady part of the population. It was like trying to pee with my legs crossed.

So this got me thinking. I looked at other equipment in the room. Tables designed to go over the bed had barely functioning wheels and couldn’t be raised or lowered at all. There was one chair in the room for visitors which was all right since that wasn’t much of a problem for me. A TV was mounted on the wall but had long lost its remote meaning that a nurse or aide had to change the channel and adjust the volume at all times. Rule became pick one channel for the day. A&E is far more interesting than I thought.

There were chairs that some of the elderly patients would be placed in that desperately needed replacing. Wheelchairs that looked like they were ready to give up the ghost and more that I’m sure I wasn’t aware of. Even the bathroom was problematic as it was placed directly behind the room’s door which was an accident waiting to happen.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton is supposed to be one of the more well-equipped and maintained hospitals in Alberta. That’s what I was told, anyways, but it’s not. The truth is that the equipment meant to make patients comfortable is old and falling apart. So much so that jerry-rigging was an everyday occurrence for the staff.

Can anyone tell me why this hospital, or any hospital in Alberta, is in this state? It was disgusting to see staff and patients struggling with substandard equipment and rooms (which, by the way, have no air conditioning nor way to move air in them. In an Edmonton summer that means you are roasting in a very stifling room).

Sarah Hoffman had four years to make a difference. Now we have Tyler Shandro, a man I have zero confidence in, and I still don’t see anything changing. Is this what we Albertans want our health care to look like? Do we want a health care system that jerry-rigs equipment and overworks staff? That’s when accidents happen and in the medical profession accidents can be deadly.

It is time we Albertans started demanding an accounting of where our health tax dollars are going. Next time it could be you or your loved one in the hospital and Albertans deserve far better than this.

A Week in the Hospital

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I recently spent a week at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta due to repeated falls. It’s a rather involved story as to how I got there but that’s not my point today. Today I’d rather talk about the hospital and some of the conditions.



First, I want to say the nurses were amazing. They all deserve raises. Especially Rosy and Aisha (who work on Section 44). They listened to my fears as though they were profound and always took me seriously. I want to be one of those people who say they do not get paid enough to do what they do and still keep a smile on their face.

Doctors and Therapists

I know they’re busy and, gosh, I didn’t help. However, the doctors and therapists came through. After the tests were run and it turned out to be something fairly minor, they still treated me with respect and dignity.

Nurses’ Aides

This is where things take a dark turn. Some of the aides were helpful and kind but I found that was not the norm. Rather, I found many of them were terse to the point of being rude. They refused to take my concerns seriously and often gave me snarky responses to my questions. Crying (which I did a lot) was met with eye rolls they thought I couldn’t see. Concerns for my safety or well-being were answered with a click of the tongue they thought I couldn’t hear. At one point I had to ring my bedside alarm SIX TIMES before the nurse herself finally came in (she was on her way to another room). Having my alarm ignored was a common practice by the aides. One aide said she thought if she waited I would fall back asleep. My roommate didn’t fare any better with them and I gave up on trying to reason with them.

Going Home

My experience in the hospital gave me a perspective on Alberta’s Health Care system that shocked and alarmed me. This week I’m going to do a series on that experience that will hopefully show people just what’s happening with their tax dollars. To say we can, and should, do better is an understatement. The care that’s being provided is the absolute bare minimum and that minimum isn’t even the best care available. Old and broken equipment, underpaid staff, snarky and rude staff, inedible food…. Albertans should be demanding better for their tax dollars. After a week in the hospital I’ve got only one question:

What is the Alberta Government doing with the money that is supposed to allocated to health care? Why are hospitals having to deal with substandard equipment and food? Where, exactly, dollar for dollar, are our tax dollars going?

Next I will write about my adventures in the emergency room.

Medicine and NLD

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Every so often on this blog I talk about my Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD). It’s not easy navigating this world with that cloak hanging about your shoulders. Sometimes it’s a superpower and sometimes it’s a chain just waiting to tie you up.

As a 51 year old woman, I’m expected to navigate this world on my own and there are times when the challenge of it is simply too much for me. Such as when I have a meltdown in Costco because it’s the weekend before Christmas and I’ve been far too over stimulated. For those of you who saw me singing “Hakuna Matata”, it was either that or scream.

Interacting with health professionals can be extremely scary and frustrating. There’s an alarming number of them that are all too willing to use their education and experience to further their own agenda and stroke their egos. If you have NLD, that attitude can present an even bigger problem and make it more difficult for you to be an active participant in your own health care.

So I’ve come up with some suggestions on how to make it easier on you and your doctor.

  • Questions. NLD people become very aware early on that we ask a lot of questions. The result is people who are in positions to answer those questions, such as adults and teachers, become frustrated and angry with us. We learn to shut up and hide our confusion.

    As someone with NLD, you need to overcome this unintended training. Medical professionals are there to answer your questions. That’s a large part of their job. Not asking questions would be like walking into a McDonalds and being okay with not having your food cooked. However, expecting to come up with questions on the spot often leads us NLD people down a garden path that really has little to do with why we’re there. So, before you go to your appointment, take some time to write down those problems you want addressed. It doesn’t matter how silly or strange those concerns may seem. A silly concern (gosh, this mole looks funny) can have big impacts (melanoma). Write down a few questions beforehand while you’re in a comfortable environment and can take a moment to think about how you want to proceed.

  • No means no. You have the right to have a say in your treatment. You also have the right to delay a treatment until you feel comfortable proceeding. If you say no, then your doctor is obligated to respect your wishes no matter his/her personal feelings in the matter. Now, saying no may not be in your best interests and that is why asking questions is so vitally important.
  • Second opinion. Okay so you feel a bit hinky about your diagnosis or treatment. You’ve asked questions but still don’t feel comfortable. It’s here where a lot of NLD people run into trouble. Because we’ve been told so many times to “just accept it” or “stop asking questions” or “stop being weird,” we learn to distrust or ignore our instincts. This is another area we need to retrain ourselves in. If you don’t feel comfortable or have an uneasy feeling, get a second opinion. Or a third. Or a fourth. It’s okay to keep getting opinions until you’re satisfied. If you were buying shoes, you wouldn’t hesitate to go into store after store until you found a pair that felt right, would you? Why is your medical health any different?
  • Advocate. Some medical professionals balk at this but this is about you, not them. You have the right to have someone attend your appointment with you. The doctor may ask for verbal permission to talk about your issues in front of them but that’s fine. They’re just covering their butt. If a doctor doesn’t let you have someone attend with you or they refuse to see you with someone with you, get a new doctor. A friend or advocate can help you in your appointment by simply being there or by asking questions you may not have thought of before.
  • Internet. The internet is your medical buddy and medical enemy. There’s a lot of crap out there and much of it just plain silly. However, many NLD people are big readers and having a website we can go to can be a huge help in understanding. Ask your doctor/pharmacist/nurse if they can recommend a site where you can get more information.
  • Teach your doctor. Sadly, many medical professionals have no idea what NLD is or how to deal with someone who has it. During your first appointment be honest and tell them about the NLD. Then you need to teach your doctor how best to give you information. Some of us do well with deep information. That means getting down to the nitty gritty of the problem and asking a lot of questions. Others of us want the information on paper or a website so we can look at it at our leisure. Is it possible to email your doctor your questions at a later time? This can be a real time saver for both of you. You have time to think about things and formulate your questions while your doctor has time to answer them when he has a moment and isn’t rushed to see his next patient. Figure out what works for you and then tell your doctor. Some of us need other people to look us in the face while talking. For others that can freak us out.

Your health is important and you need to take an active role in it but that’s not as daunting as it sounds. Having NLD means we need to work around some issues but it’s by no means an insurmountable barrier.

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