A letter from Laurie Anderson

My name is Laurie Anderson. You may know me by my health card number, because that is exactly how I feel right now. A number. I am nine digits. I am in fact a 33 year old mother of two boys. Bryndal who is 12, and Riley who is 7. I live in the small town of Yellow Grass Sk, located about 45 minutes south of Regina. I am someone.

 I have a story to share with you. Maybe, just maybe, someone will hear this, and understand just how a person like me could fall through the cracks of our health care system. A system, where you are a nine digit number, or when you are admitted to hospital you are a room and a bed number. You lose your identity and become, just one of many.

My last son was born in 2004, and things were good then. Shortly after however, I started having heavy periods with a lot of painful cramping.

Gradually however, the periods became worse, heavier, longer, the cramps were unbearable some days. I just felt exhausted all the time, listless and a general feeling of unwell.

My GP did the best he could to manage my symptoms.

 In January, I decided I needed a hysterectomy to treat the cervical problems. I asked how long the wait was, and I was told up to 6 months.

 I went home thinking to myself, 6 months. I have already been bleeding for 5 months. I have not been able to be intimate with my partner because of this. I have not been able to fully function in society because of the constant pain and cramping. Can I wait another 6 months? No. No I couldn’t. Already my mental health was suffering. Already my family was suffering. No, I could not wait 6 more months.

On January 24th 2012, my menses went from my normal heavy, to extremely heavy. I knew it was time to go back to the hospital.

I was given meds by IV to try and stop the bleeding, again these failed. It became a game of try everything so you can prove nothing is working.

 I was admitted to unit 5E early in the morning.

 I was no longer Laurie Anderson. I was room 16 bed 2. 

I would ring my call bell to ask for pain medication. I know that my nursing team knew this because I would hear it get paged over the call system “16 bed 2 needs a nurse” 45 minutes later I would ring again “16-2 needs a nurse.” Eventually someone would come to inquire what my needs were. I would request pain medication, if it happened to be one of the good nurses, I would get the medication right away. If it happened to be one of the other nurses, I would end up waiting until the good nurses returned from break.

 In one case, I rang at 10pm for pain medication and I was told I would have to wait, as they were extremely busy and not caught up on their work. So I waited, and after listening to the nurses discuss a recent trip to Mexico for 25 minutes I decided my pain was more important than their discussion and so I rang again. I was told in a very snotty manner that they were busy and would get to me when they had time. It still took 20 minutes before she brought me some relief.

Thursday morning my Dr. did his rounds, I was still bleeding heavily. The medications that were given to me were not working. He agreed it was time to get me into the OR and told me he would make arrangements for this to happen the following day.

 Friday morning came, and my Dr. showed up with a look of defeat on his face. His request to have me taken into the OR was denied. I guess I wasn’t sick enough. 

We agreed that if I was able to transfer to another hospital, then that was my best option for treatment.

I did not, and never will understand why the hospital denied the request for surgery. As I understand the criteria, my bleeding was uncontrolled and unable to be managed. We tried alternative options to no avail. I was not prepared to wait until I was nearly dead before I had surgery. I was not prepared to put myself at unnecessary risk because of a system that herds you like sheep and makes you wait for slaughter.  

 I finally had my hysterectomy done on Monday January 30th and I was discharged home on Wed February 1st.

 I just found out that I have Invasive Endocervical Adenocarcinoma. I’m not too sure what this means for me as I have yet to meet with an oncologist. I know I have very little faith in a system that has repeatedly failed me. My cancer, has been growing for a while, or at least I have had all the classic symptoms of cancer for quite sometime. There is a lot of anger within me at a system that neglected to look after me. A system that failed to listen to me, failed to see me as more than just another number.

There is little that I can do except be a voice for others like me. Maybe by hearing my story, it makes a difference in our flawed system. I doubt it. I have also worked in the health care field in this province, and I know how little people mean to management.

 I also feared writing this for you. I feared this because I know management likes to lay blame on the frontline staff. The Dr’s and nurses that care for us.

 Is it my Dr’s fault that there is such a long wait for treatment in this province? No.

 Is it his fault that when he saw the clear need for urgent surgery and made the attempt to have me into the OR that it was denied? No.

My doctor has always seen me as Laurie Anderson. He has given me text book care, and I appreciate that. He has gone beyond that, and worked with another team member to have my surgery done as soon as possible. It is not my doctor’s fault.

 No, management and upper management, government and policy makers, it’s your fault.

 It’s your fault for not giving our front line workers the support they need to care for the people that burden your system.

 It’s your fault for not providing better access to the services needed by the people that burden your system.

 It’s your fault, that when I needed you, you failed me.

 It’s your fault, that a cancer growing inside me could have been caught much sooner and been treated while it was still able to leave me with my fertility. It’s your fault that I am not capable of giving my partner children.

 The depression and suicidal thoughts that I had while waiting for treatment, that’s your fault too. The fact that I verbalized them and was still unable to get proper medical care due to your policy’s, is also your fault.

 The days that my children were unable to be properly cared for by me and I had to rely on friends, I’m going to also blame on you.

 My treatment and recovery in a foreign place, unable to be with my loved ones, is again a result of your policy and procedure.

 And by chance, should cancer take my life, I will be certain to let you know that is also your fault.