I thought I knew everything there was to know about Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
After all, I had covered hospital board meetings and virtually every controversy for 23 years. My teenagers had been born there and who can forget the late night visits to emergency when my then-toddlers had ear infections.
The last 12 years have also had me involved as a volunteer director with the VJH Foundation, which raises funds for equipment and patient comfort.
But even with that background, I didn’t know anything about what goes on behind the scenes until severe pain roused me from a peaceful sleep. Immediately, a new relationship evolved. I was now a patient.
Upon arrival, I went through triage and was given a wrist band. I was immediately in the able hands of emergency doctors and nurses who diagnosed a kidney stone. Prescriptions were issued and I was sent home.
And when I returned two days later, no one passed judgement about my ability to tolerate pain. In fact, I was kept in overnight – my first stay in a hospital in 27 years – to ensure I was hydrated and functioning properly.
Through the pain killer haze, I could see the ER nurse changing my IV bottle and checking my vitals. When I was moved on to a ward, the nurses were attentive even though it was 3:45 a.m. I always felt like my needs were a priority. I was not alone.
Once again I was sent home to see if nature would take its course, but it didn’t and my family doctor and the urologist decided the next step was surgery.
I was nervous but I soon realized I had a team behind me. Of course there was my family, but there were also the nurses, the doctors, the lab technicians, the folks who moved me from floor to floor and the housekeeping staff who offered a smile and stopped to chat.
I take two particular memories away from this experience.
First, was the food services worker who initially gave me a container of apple juice as I was only on a liquid diet at the time. Within seconds, though, my situation was upgraded to solids and I immediately heard a bright and cheery voice say, “I got your breakfast for you dear.” It was only toast and cereal, but it was like sitting down to a four-course meal. A couple of days later, I was wandering the ward waiting for surgery when I heard that familiar voice – “You’re back again dear?” Patients come and go but I was made to feel special.
Second, is the elderly man who could not walk but insisted on going to the washroom instead of using a bed pan. That required moving him off a bed and into a wheelchair, wheeling him to the washroom and then helping him off the chair. The routine then had to be repeated as he was taken back to bed. With demands stacking up, the nurse could have dictated the less time-consuming bed pan. But instead of thinking of herself, the nurse’s entire focus was on this gentleman and maintaining his dignity. Compassion is a trait often missing from our society, but I saw it clearly demonstrated on 3West that day.
There’s no question that challenges exist within the health care system. There are staffing shortages, not enough beds and funding is always inadequate. Those are issues that must be addressed.
But my recent experience has revealed that even with the systematic uncertainty, our community is served by committed and caring professionals. Their dedication should never be forgotten.
Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star