It started with a strange but steady pain in my side which I assumed was from eating something I shouldn’t have. However, when the pain worsened four days later despite all my self-treatments, I decided to get a second opinion. I checked into the Inuvik Regional Hospital and sent my spouse a message to meet me there when she got off work.

With the pain now unbearable, I found the rock hard plastic chairs and clinic bed too solid to use and opted to stand while waiting for test results. Then, I heard the doctor yell an expletive from down the hall before promptly entering my room.

“It’s very good that you came in.”

My better half arrives just in time to learn the news. I’ll spare you the details, but I’m told I’m facing imminent kidney failure and the only option is to fly me to Edmonton for testing. In spite of being on death’s door, I’m still considered a healthy, able bodied person, so my partner is unable to travel with me. Before I know it, I’m hooked up to several machines, strapped to a surprisingly comfortable gurney, and loaded into the back of an ambulance. I look to my love one last time and the doors close. I won’t see her again for three weeks.

The very nice EMTs pump me with painkillers and take me to the airport, where I am somehow loaded at a 90 degree angle, through a passenger door and into a tiny aircraft. Landing in Yellowknife two hours later, I’m wrestled into a second tiny plane, introduced to a new group of friendly EMTs and flown to Edmonton. Landing in the early morning, I’m taken by ambulance from the Edmonton International Airport all the way to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in the city’s downtown core, feeling every single bump along the way.

Soon my problem is revealed: I only have one kidney — and it’s blocked. After a procedure to clear out the blockage, I spend three very long sleepless nights in observation on an unbearably uncomfortable mattress and even harder pillows, eating depressingly bad food, surrounded by people way worse off than me, before negotiating a discharge.

Some observations:

Many years ago the City of Edmonton decided to close its municipal airport and sell the land, a mistake which clearly did not take Northern healthcare infrastructure into consideration. With Larga House very close to the Royal Alexandra and the former airport, there was a very clear system in place to minimize the trauma of medical travel that was completely ignored in favour of development — which has yet to materialize two decades later.

Similarly, while every single healthcare employee I encountered during the process did everything they could to help, it’s obvious decades of cost-cutting have left the healthcare system under-equipped for basic needs. When you can get a brand new pillow for $4 why are patients trapped in hospital beds using old lumps of leather?

We limit our healthcare workers’ ability to help us by focusing on making every hospital budget balance at the expense of the comfort of patients as they recover.

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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