Getting to know the Canadian healthcare system

OCATION: On NE side of Gaspe Peninsula. Grande-Vallee’, Quebec

CAMPGROUND: Au Soleil Couchant. One of the best we have been to. See previous description

WEATHER: Lovely. Sunny. Highs in low 70s

Sorry I haven’t written sooner. We have been in a headspin for several days. We arrived here on Monday, planning to spend just one night, and then continue our circle around the peninsula.

However, George woke up during the night with heart-attack-like symptoms. It was 2:30 AM. We don’t have a Canadian phone. What to do? We finally decided to wake up a neighbor to ask them to call 911. Luck was with us. The neighbor lady is probably the only English-speaking camper in the campground. Not only that, but she is actually from this area, and pointed out that we are literally right behind the clinic. She called the ambulance for us and they took us there. After several hours, they decided he needed to be seen by a cardiologist, so they took him by ambulance to Gaspe’ City Hospital, about 1.5 hours away. They don’t have a cardiac unit, and decided that he needs an angio-cath, which is only done in Quebec City. They have an air-bus that picks up patients from all around rural Quebec and takes them to Quebec City. But, this is socialized medicine, so things take time. Every day since Tuesday, we have been waiting to find out what is happening, waiting for a space on the air-bus and an appointment with the cardiac cath lab in QC. George is totally bored, with no wifi, no TV, and just a few of my trashy novels to read. I drive over to visit him daily, sneaking in some hot sauce and salt to make the hospital food more tolerable. Finally, today we got the news that he will be transported to Quebec City on Sunday. We think the procedure will be on Monday, and hopefully he will return here on Wednesday or so.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t be in a better place. This campground is right on the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, so I have beautiful water views, and the weather is just perfect. The price is about $21 USD/night. Since we had planned on just one night here, we chose a non service site. A few days ago, the battery on the Airstream started getting precariously low. I asked them if I could plug in to a 20-amp plug and they said sure. I’m right next to the “clubhouse” that has a dishwashing sink and microwave, so I’m all set, without sewer or water hook-ups.

We cannot remember the lady’s name who called 911 for us, so we secretly just call her the “911 lady”. She has been terrific. She stays here all summer, so knows everyone. She has spread the word about our situation, and all the campers wave to me and say “bon jour”. On the first day, I had to unhook the pickup from the Airstream so that I could go to Gaspe’ City Hospital. Ashamedly, I don’t know how to do that. She got a man to help me do it. It certainly wasn’t the precise way that George does it, but we got the job done. Every day when I pull in, returning from Gaspe’ Hospital, she or other ladies rush over to ask me how things are going. The day I needed electricity, I was trying to figure out the cord. She came by and said she had an appointment and had to run, but did I need help? I said I could probably figure it out. Next thing I knew, she marched 2 men over to help. She said they couldn’t speak English but knew about campers. After they hooked up the cord, one of the guys hugged me. So sweet! All in a mix of French/English with lots of smiles and “merci’s”

It turns out that the office person at the campground has a sister who works on George’s floor at the hospital. So, we have been communicating via the 2 girls. (So much for patient confidentiality!). The campground continues to tell me that I can extend, whenever I ask them, and in cute English say “no problem”.

I’ll write again when we know the next steps. We think we will continue our planned trip – north from here, then up to Labrador, down to Quebec City, and then south to the Eastern Townships which border Vermont.

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