Once again I am reminded, my friends – what matters most is health. I’m in the Porter departure lounge in Ottawa, waiting to go home after a quick visit to the very old, and a too-vivid glimpse of the very sick.
As constant readers know, my formidable aunt will soon be 96; she lives alone and even, until very recently, continued, terrifyingly, to drive. She does not want to move to assisted care, and after a few attempts to persuade her to move to a nice place where she’d be safe and fed, we now do everything to support her decision to stay right where she is. But it’s hard. This visit, suddenly, she went completely deaf, couldn’t hear anything. She said it was merely ear wax, but of course, this was the weekend, her doctor’s office was closed and gave the address of a weekend clinic. This morning, I drove her there, to discover that the clinic probably has not been open for years.
So I took her to Emerg at the Civic, a place I know well from countless disasters with my mother. The Civic – where my son was born in 1984 and my mother, after many visits for many different ailments real and imaginary, died in 2012 at the age of 89. I hate Emerg – but couldn’t leave Do deaf, without being able to hear even the telephone, let alone the TV and radio which are her constant, and for long periods only, companions.
So we waited. When we were eventually triaged, we were told 3 hours minimum. I had a plane to catch that afternoon, and my brother was at work. Do’s wonderful friend Una offered to come if I needed to get away. Finally, the doctor saw us, diagnosed – yes – ear wax buildup, and at last, three hours later, a nurse named Mike syringed her ears. I told him I have a friend who says that people who work in hospitals are angels. Wayson said that in his great book “Not yet.” And it’s true.
As we sat, we were surrounded by the misery of humanity, very very sick people, people who looked like they’d been abandoned at birth or whose faces were pale green or yellow or who could hardly walk. A woman with a very young writhing autistic son, both of whom did not look up from their phones for two hours. And we were there for ear wax. But deafness is serious, and how grateful I am that they took care of the problem. She can hear better now, still not perfectly. We discussed, yet again, how she needs more care, she needs people to come to her place to check on her. She doesn’t want to admit that she needs help. But she’s nearly 96!
And now I’m on my way home, more determined than ever to do what I can to stay healthy, to stay out of Emerg, to stay out of the Ontario health care system for as long as I possibly can. Forever!!!!!
Yesterday I took Do and two dear friends to dinner, to celebrate the upcoming 96th birthday I’ll be away for. One has terrible arthritis and the other has various serious ailments, and Do couldn’t hear us so we had to shout in her direction. But it was a marvellous dinner nonetheless, even joyful. We toasted “To your 100th, Do!” I bet she makes it.