Tag Archives: Hospital

How My Brother Got His Boo-Boo

My niece Makenzie sent her Giraffe to the hospital to help speed her dad's recovery. For those unaware, it has been scientifically proven that giraffes speed recovery. Anyone who says different is a quack or a charlatan.

Last night around 9:30pm I received a phone call from my mom. When the phone rang, I was just sitting down to a late dinner prepared for me by Dom (which was absolutely delicious, and also already delayed by me as I had spent some time on the phone chatting with my friend Matt). Anyway, when the phone rang I half considered not answering. I figured my mom was calling about my Christmas list – but then I remembered that I had already emailed that to her – so I picked up.

Hi Dan, I’m just calling to let you know that Bernie [my brother] was in a car accident. Becky [his wife] is on the way to the hospital. 

Unfortunately my mom really didn’t have too many details. I was left knowing only that he was taken to the Simcoe hospital, and Becky was on her way. My mom informed me that she would keep me posted, and asked that I tell my brother Aidan (whom she tried to reach but couldn’t).

As the event unfolded, I ended up speaking/texting Becky, and my brother Sandy. He was headed to the Hamilton General Hospital (as they decided to move him from Simcoe to HGH for better care). This made me a bit anxious because it made the event a bit more real, and seem a lot more serious. Of course, not having information made my mind race; something I try to control because I find it anything but helpful. Up until that point I think I just kept thinking it’s nothing. Sadly that was an understatement.

In the case of my brother's accident, the blue car would have continued through the intersection without stopping or slowing down, at the same time as the green car (driven by my brother) was passing through. Boo. Boo I says.

Between texts/phone calls with Sandy, my mom, and Becky, I learned that Bernie had been t-boned by a distracted driver at a t-intersection. The road Bernie was driving did not have any stop signs or lights. The other driver however did have a stop sign. From what I understand, she/he was smoking and dropped their cigarette. When they bent over to pick it up, they took their eyes off the road and slammed right into my brother. Unfortunately they hit the driver side head on. This sent my brother’s car into a roll. I’m not sure exactly how many times it rolled, but more than once is too many times in my books.

I still don’t know who called the police/ambulance, etc., but someone did (thank you to whomever that was). I don’t know who used the Jaws-Of-Life to cut the roof off of the car (but thank you to whomever that was). I don’t know who pulled my brother from the car (but thank you to whomever did). I also don’t know who took care of him and got him to the hospital (but thank you to whomever that was). I also don’t know all of the people who worked on him, took care of him, and kept him with us (but again, than you to whomever you were). And I have no idea of all of the people who will help him through the next few days, weeks, and months of his recovery (but a big thank you in advance for all that you are going to do).

All I know is that Bernie is still with us. He is banged up pretty bad, but it’s nothing that he can’t get through. I know this for several reasons. First, he’s a Gillis, and we are notoriously bull-headed. And if that isn’t enough, we are also Ennis‘ (on my mom’s side). If you think Gillis’ are bull-headed, you’ve never met an Ennis. So yeah, we are doubly bull-headed. Second, I’ve seen him deal with so much more and come out the other end with a smile on his face. I’m speaking of course about the month that he and Becky spent last year watching over their daughter, my niece, Haley, as she battled with the flesh-eating disease, sepsis, collapsed lungs, cardiac arrests, etc. And third, he has a family that will kick him in the ass if he thinks about slacking off or giving up (which of course I know he won’t do because of the first reason I’ve provided).

Of course, I also know the next few days, weeks, and months are going to be a challenge on many levels. But he will get through this. We all will. Because that’s what Awesome does. And he is, if nothing else, Awesome. And so are we.

Anyway, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has already shown their love and support, those of you who have sent messages, and words of encouragement. Please continue to do so – they mean so much to all of us.

For now, I’m just happy to let you know that my brother is stable. While his pelvis has been shattered, while he has a collapsed and perforated lung, a fractured skull, a lot of bruising, and a broken collarbone, he is by no means broken. He simply has a rather large boo-boo. But nothing that he can’t and that we can’t handle.

Na Na Na Nah, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye

So I’m writing this post in my semi-private room (thank you University health insurance), on my iPhone that I’m not supposed to have. Thankfully my parents left it behind completely by accident. I’ve never written a post with my iPhone, so I’m not sure how this will turn out. Regardless, i thought I would give you an update.

Of course, this might be more a ramble-y and morphine induced post than most, so please be patient with my lack of grammar, coherent thoughts, and maybe spelling.

My morning started earlier than expected as the first scheduled surgery of the day was canceled. Yay me?

After admitting myself, my pre-op nurse wanted to go over a few things, and then I was whisked away to get the party started. The party of course meant whatever deliciousness the anesthetist decided to pump into my body. So. Freaking. Good.

Then some stuff happened. In my head, I was likely flying through the sky on the most amazing adventure. I’m sure it involved ambrosia and coffee and chocolate and all things fantastic. In reality, Dr. Phillips was kicking my hernia to the curb. He is my new hero.

I awoke several hours later in a substantial amount of discomfort, and to a most obnoxious moaning that I eventually determined was me. Mainly though it was the pain that woke me. But not the pain I was expecting. You see, the morphine was masking the pain from the surgery – it was the pain from having air pumped into my abdomen. And it was rather annoying.

Eventually I was moved to my semi-private room, hooked up to several machines, and then was able to visit with my parents. Good stuff.

At some point in the eve, the morphine was reduced because my breathing became to shallow. That, and apparently I was down to 6 breaths per minute – which is low I guess. I was also put on another drug – this one to assist my breathing. I guess it worked because my breathing has normalized. Woot.

Eventually, I had to get up from my bed. Honestly, laying in bed all day is not my idea of fun. One of the nurses helped me out. I slowly lifted myself from the bed and came to stand – albeit with a bunch of wires hanging every which way. Good times.

The other issue with laying in bed all morphined up is that it’s rather difficult to pee. I tried using the plastic urinal, but not very successfully. So being upright, I took the opportunity to deal with that issue. T’was not easy, but I managed. I feel for the nurse who had to help me out though, as I stood there with my lily-white ass hanging out.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. Still waiting on proof that I can process solid foods – granted, that might be tough given I’ve only had water and juice.

For your entertainment, I offer you some pictures. Woot.

I thought my tv/radio controller was sticking its tongue out at me. Remember, I was on morphine.
The machine that gave me morphine. I love this machine.
My ouchies.
I thought the booties were rather stylish.
As was my gown.

Bite My Ass Flesh-Eating Disease (But Not Really)

Haley today.

May 1 marked a pretty amazing day for my family.  It was just over a year ago – May 1, 2010 to be precise – that my niece Haley, after coming down with the chicken pox, developed a case of necrotizing fasciitis1.  For those unfamiliar with this illness, it is more commonly referred to as the flesh eating disease2 (FED).

Talk about a bizarre day.  I remember my mom calling me to tell me that Haley was in the hospital with FED, and I remember being completely dumbfounded.  I mean, how does a child develop the disease?  I figured it was a mistake, or very clearly a minor problem.  I don’t recall feeling worried, at least, not right away.  Curious, yes.  Worried?  No.  I mean, modern science being all modern and science-like, and figuring that since the medical professionals had diagnosed the problem so early, things would surely be fine.  Right?

Now, when faced with a situation like this, my response is generally to research the topic.  Information is power and such.  This response is clearly a function of the nerd in me.  But it is also that I find comfort with numbers (which I realize is equivalent to calling myself a nerd).  Of course, knowing the numbers is a blessing and a curse.

Blessing: Researching the statistics on FED (such as mortality statistics) distracted me for a while, and let me put some scientific logic behind what was happening in the very real world.  It also allowed me to absorb as much as I could about the disease so that I could temper my responses accordingly, and deal with any of those tricky emotions3 that might come to the surface.  For example, I was able to learn that while Haley’s FED was due to her chicken pox, it’s very rare for chicken pox to lead to FED4.

Curse: Knowing the statistics gave me a sense of dread.  What I learned wasn’t all that good.  Untreated, mortality can be upwards of 73%5.  The Public Health Agency of Canada indicates that death can occur in as little as 12 to 24 hours, and of the 90-200 cases per year in this country, 20 to 30% are fatal4,6.  Treatment often involves surgery, debridement of the necrotized tissue, and in some cases, amputation4.  Due to the infection, patients can also develop sepsis, and organ failure6.

Clearly things were not as simple as I thought.  To be honest, after learning this I was amazed and thankful that the emergency doctors at the Simcoe Hospital had the wherewithal to correctly diagnose Haley, contact McMaster Hospital in Hamilton, and have Becky (my sister-in-law) and Haley whisked there for immediate admittance.

And there in the Pediatric Critical Care Unit (PCCU) of McMaster Haley stayed.  As did her mom and dad, who kept constant vigil over her.  Not for a day, or two.  Not even for a week.  But for the entire freaking month of May.  To say that the family was overwhelmed was an understatement.  I really have no idea how my brother and sister-in-law handled the ups and downs of the month.  And let me tell you, they were aplenty.  The PCCU was especially hard to handle, as all of the patients housed there were severe; children with cancer; children on their death beds.  It was enough to make even the strongest break down.  And yet my brother and sister-in-law stayed there, stir-crazy at times, insane with concern the rest, keeping a constant vigil.  Hoping beyond hope that Haley would recover.

The month itself was tremendously long.  The worst of it came in the middle of the month (the 19th to be exact).  I had travelled to Winnipeg for work and left with the understanding that Haley was on the mend.  It’s amazing what 2 days will do.  While in the middle of a meeting, I received a message that Haley had gone into cardiac arrest.  I may or may not have dropped the f-bomb and bolted from the room, frantically trying to call home to figure out what was going on.  Very little information was available, except that Haley was back in surgery.  Of course I thought the worst.  After collecting my thoughts and reigning in my emotions, I returned to the meeting.  At this point, everyone in the room was aware of what was going on, so no one really expected anything of me.  I honestly do not remember anything that happened during the meeting.  I may have offered my opinion, or mumbled that I’d take on a particular task, but to be honest, it’s a complete blur.  I have never felt so helpless in my life.  I can’t even begin to imagine what Bernie and Becky were going through.

I grabbed a flight back to Toronto the same day, and then ventured to McMaster Hospital with my brother Aidan.  I honestly can’t even describe to you what my niece looked like when I first saw her.  The number of tubes that she had going into her tiny swollen body was unreal.  It still seems like some weird memory of something that never really happened.  But it did.  She was being pumped full of medicine, pain killers and narcotics in order to keep her sedate, as comfortable as possible, and hopefully healing.  The only way that I could look at her was to try to disconnect from the fact that I was staring at my niece.

Over the month, Haley suffered with chicken pox, pneumonia, FED, collapsed lungs, bladder infections, surgeries, sepsis, and cardiac arrest.  It was a very difficult time to say the least.  Ultimately, and thankfully, Haley came out of all of it.  And amazingly, she’s still the active, crazy little girl she was before this event happened.  The only thing that remains now is a tiny scar on her cheek, which is a reminder to me of the events that unfolded last year.  More importantly, it is also a reminder to me of how resilient the human body can be, and how bull-headed the Gillis clan can be.  Mainly though, it reminds me of how strong my brother and sister-in-law are.  For them to have gone through this month of hell and come out the other end still smiling is nothing short of a miracle.

1 If you want to know more about necrotizing fasciitis (and by know more I clearly mean see more), then click here.  If you have a sensitive constitution, for the love of all things holy and sacred, DO NOT CLICK THERE.  Consider yourself duly warned.

2 Note that flesh-eating disease and flesh-eating bacteria are really misnomers; the bacteria responsible for the necrosis of the flesh are not actually eating it.  Instead, they release toxins that cause cell death (or necrosis).  And they do this indiscriminately; fat, muscle, fascia – any cell that happens to be exposed to the toxins will necrotize4.

3 Ew, emotions.

4 The Public Health Agency of Canada Information Sheet on Necrotizing Fasciitis.

5 Trent, J.T., and Kirsner, R.S. (2002). Necrotizing Fasciitis. Wounds 14(8)

6 MedicineNet.com Necrotizing Fasciitis Fact Sheet

The Vacation That Just Keeps Giving – I Mean Taking

We all remember the hilarity that was the incident I affectionately refer to as Face Smash 2011.  Well, today I got a lovely surprise in the mail.  It was an envelope from Hawaii Emergency Physicians Associated, Inc., or HEPA for short.

My first thoughts on receiving the envelope consisted of a collection of What the what?, and This must be a receipt of payment, or Maybe they sent me a survey (is it surprising that a Statistician would think this?). And, if I am to be perfectly honest, I have to admit that there was even a small part of me that thought Maybe they realized they overcharged me and have sent me a refund.  Ya, I can be that stupid.  Well, that’s probably not true.  I know I can be far more stupid than that.  Although I prefer to think of it as being not so much stupid, as optimistic.  Okay fine, let’s just say I’m optimistically stupid, or stupidly optimistic; whatever.  As Rick would say in a most dramatic way “I’m done with this”.  Either way, and moral of this paragraph, I’m an asshat for being so stupid.

My Physician, Dr. Coker - who was awesome - was also worth $619.75 apparently. Should I take comfort in knowing that his skills are worth more than the cost of the stitches?

Anyway, upon opening said envelope I was presented with an almost illegible invoice.  Yes folks, that’s right; an invoice.  It’s not a receipt of payment already received, it’s an invoice.

Now, you might be asking yourself, Didn’t Dan already pay something like $550 when he got his stitches? And you know, that is exactly what I asked myself.  Well, not exactly.  I may or may not have thrown some expletives into the mix, and I may have opted to refer to myself in the first-person.  Regardless, I was ever so slightly confused.  Maybe I had smashed my face so hard, that I imagined the entire paying-the-hospital-a-ridiculous-sum-of-money-that-could-have-been-better-spent-on-pina-coladas scenario.

Nope.  I double checked my bank account.  I did indeed already pay about $550 for wound cleaning, wound numbing, and wound stitching.  Five hundred and fifty dollars on 5 stitches.  That’s $110 per stitch.  Clearly, this invoice must be a mistake.

Desperately hoping a mistake had been made, I started sleuthing, as one is inclined to do in a situation such as this.  I managed to find the HEPA website, and it was quite informative.  Apparently HEPA is a group of emergency response physicians that work in the hospitals of Hawaii.  Let me restate that; they are a group of doctors that work in the hospital, they do not work for the hospital.  Which means they need to be paid too, because clearly the hospital bill is a completely different animal than the doctor’s bill.  And clearly $550 can’t be expected to cover the costs of cleaning, numbing, and stitching a wound, plus the 15-30 minutes that it took the Dr. Coker to perform the required stitching (especially since I could have just bought some crazy glue and had a glorious DIY party on/in my face).  GAH!

Don’t get me wrong.  I fully believe that Dr. Coker’s work deserves payment.  I mean, he did stitch up my beautiful face and leave me with a rather sporty Harry Potter scar.  He was professional.  He was entertaining.  He allowed us to document the procedure.  And he also assured me that the scar would be minimized because of his stitch-work.  So I’m not upset with him.  How could I be?  Plain and simple, he was awesome, and is very much deserving of being paid.  I would recommend his work, and if I were in the state of Hawaii again finding myself in need of medical care, I would absolutely, 100%, and without-a-doubt seek out his expertise.  Ultimately I am annoyed with the stupid American medical system.  Let me write that again, because it feels good to do so:



I guess what bothers me the most is that no one at the hospital informed me that this would be the situation; that is, that I would receive 2 separate bills, the last more expensive than the first.  This despite the fact that I kept asking How much will this cost? and I can’t afford this, so let’s replace stitches and needles with some old chewing gum, and elbow grease if that keeps this cheap.  Of course, according to the HEPA website:

When someone comes to the Emergency Room, it is implied that they have a medical emergency. Specific regulations require that Emergency Room Clinicians first see the patient before we can discuss any financial questions.  We understand that this restriction can be frustrating.  However, the regulations are there to ensure everyone who comes to an Emergency Room will be seen regardless of their ability to pay.

While I support the idea that everyone should be seen regardless of their ability to pay, I have to wonder what happens to those patients who, after having seen a doctor, must choose between paying for food/shelter, or paying a doctor’s bill.  The poorer families in the USA; what do they do?  How do they survive in a system like this?  Perhaps they don’t.  Anyway, I digress.  Bottom line: I wish I was made aware that 2 payments would have to be made.  It certainly would have prevented the annoyance that I am currently experiencing.  Once more for good measure:


It still feels good to write :)

Thankfully, while the bill is $619.75, it’s not the end of my financial world.  Given the state of the American medical system, the bill could have been for so much more, and that is the silver lining that I will cling to.  So despite being a glorious pain in the ass and wallet, I will pay my HEPA bill like a good little patient.  And I will submit the expense to the health coverage I have through the school in the hope of getting a refund.  And I will move on from this and focus only on the awesome that was Hawaii, because that is what awesome people do.

Unless the nurses of Hawaii also have an incorporated association that requires some form of payment.  Good gravy, let’s hope not.