BY ALLISON BROWN
On a recent vacation with my family and friends, one of my friends became very ill. Prior to her leaving for the trip she had been cleared to travel. She had been dealing with complex health issues and ensured she had the necessary travel insurance for the trip. We did not anticipate what ensued next.
My friend really did not look well while we were on our trip. She was tired and exhibited signs of polyuria, polydipsia, polyphagia and dry mouth. As the fantastic trooper that she is, she pushed herself one day to go on a day tour with her kids unknowingly exposing herself to the Caribbean sun and heat thereby increasing her chance for dehydration and its related symptoms.
I have been a nurse for many years and as the day went by I strongly advised her to see the doctor on board the cruise ship. A wheelchair was obtained and she was taken to the medical area on the ship where she had some diagnostic tests which indicated she needed to be stabilized in hospital on land. Within a matter of hours, she was taken off the ship by ambulance and taken to a local hospital.
For the next five days she was in ICU until she was stable enough to fly back home. It was only after we were all safely home did I realize; when people decide to book a cruise it is the local hospitals in the ports that have to accept travelers who have suddenly become ill. I wonder how well equipped these hospitals are abroad. My friend indicated that the nurses were doing “everything”, and the level of privacy for rooms was not what one would expect coming from North America. She said her ICU bed was rusty. Again not something one would see in an Ontario hospital. This is not an indictment on hospital standards abroad but merely pointing out what someone experienced while away on vacation. I am truly grateful for the care that my friend received and I am planning to get in touch with the hospital by sending a thank you letter and to see how I can arrange to provide them with a new hospital bed.
I took time to reflect on the disparities that exist in healthcare systems in Ontario and the Caribbean and came away thinking how blessed we are here with our healthcare system. I also think there are opportunities for partnerships and collaborative efforts on many levels between Ontario and the Caribbean. I believe we can act individually on many fronts; we do not always have to wait for “big” government to come up with ideas and solutions to challenges. We as individuals have to become the drivers behind change and diverse movements. Necessity is the mother of invention. My challenge to you the reader is to not sit by and have “things” happen to you, but rather reflect on what you can do to make a difference. The difference may not help you but it may help someone else. No matter how big or small the result; at least you have tried to make a difference. This is a way to empower yourselves in situations where at times there is a feeling of powerlessness.
My friend is now on the mend and is on a medical regimen consisting of following up with doctors and specialists to enable her to have a good quality of life in the midst of complex medical issues. We both have a much greater appreciation for our friends, family, and what it means to have “health”.