Watch this week's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVc_X-fBVJI
I’m an Aries, which I constantly use as an excuse for my persistent impatience. Yes, I read the last page of a book first. And I rarely see a movie unless someone has revealed the ending to me well in advance of the opening scene. (It drives my husband crazy.) So as I worked on this latest story, on what’s behind the wait in emergency waiting rooms, I felt extra compassion for all the people in the queue.
There’s no doubt, waiting is a drag, especially when you’re not feeling well. But the simple truth is, if you’re waiting, it’s busy behind those closed emergency ward doors. Every patient is given a “score” when they arrive in emergency by a triage nurse, depending on how sick they are and how urgently they need to be seen. But even with my Aries mentality, here’s a situation where I wouldn’t want to be first in line.
Because Sunnybrook deals with the highest number of sick people in the province, that can slow things down. But let’s face it, the business of saving lives can’t thrive on the fast food model. Acutely ill patients need many resources, and good medicine takes time. If it’s taking a while, rest assured, there’s someone much sicker being taken care of before you.
It’s also a tough go for staff. As Teresa Korogyi, Patient Care Manager of Emergency told me, you don’t go into the medical profession to keep people waiting. You do it to help, and it’s hard when that can’t happen instantly. Having done her job for years, Korogyi has heard many complain about the waits. The only exception was during a 2-week period when Sunnybrook’s emergency room was being reconstructed, and trauma patients had to come in through the public entrance. “The trauma patients would come in, some of them quite horrific, and not one patient in the waiting room asked why they aren’t first. They didn’t want to be first.“
That said, there are things you can do as a patient to ease the gridlock. Make sure you really do need to be seen in emergency before you leave home. While you’re waiting in emergency, make a list of all the medications you are taking and your medical history. And tell the triage nurses if your situation gets worse while you wait. That may change your score, and how long it takes to be seen.
It’s tough enough being a patient, let alone doing it with patience. But before your inner Aries coming seeping out, know that at Sunnybrook, at least there’s a good reason for the wait.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
In my nine months at Sunnybrook, September 12 was the most unforgettable day. It started early, at 4:30am. A quick shower, and then zipping up Bayview to the hospital in the dark of Sunday morning. I dropped off my car, hopped in the Sunnybrook shuttle that takes staff downtown, and landed on the doorstep of 76 Grenville Street at exactly 6am.
The place was abuzz with hundreds of Sunnybrook staff, Toronto EMS workers and even Sick Kids staff. Everyone was wearing color-coded T-shirts for easy identification, and there was an energy usually reserved to the theatre district on a Friday night. But Sunnybrook was about to enact its finest performance yet, moving dozens of high-risk mothers, and delicate preemies, 9 kilometers up to their new home at 2075 Bayview Avenue. Years of planning, preparation and prayer had finally collided: it was moving day!
It’s no small feat moving the most delicate patients down the hall, let alone to an entirely new building uptown. But all the prep work paid off in droves. With military precision, high-risk mothers, women in labour, and glass incubators cocooning the tiniest citizens of our city rolled out of the dark halls of 76 Grenville, and into the bright and beautiful space they deserve at Sunnybrook. The new Women & Babies Program was now officially open for business, and their business is providing unparalleled care.
I followed the procession of patients, movers and health care staff from start to the finish, camera in hand (and heart on sleeve). There’s nothing quite like seeing a 200 pound physician cradling a 2 pound preemie, or meeting the grandparents of the first baby born in the new space (it was a boy, just in case you were curious!). With hands draped around contracting bellies, and new parents keeping in stride with incubators in motion, each patient was brought up to their space one by one. The parade of patients soon dissolved into 120,000 square feet of space. It was truly amazing to see.
Now that it’s all done, I’d equate the move to childbirth itself. Anticipation turns to pain and then to joy when it’s all over. As with parenting, now the real work begins for the new unit. Luckily, the fancy new digs make that easy to do.
For more on the program, click here.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Think of it as a giant donut with superpowers! In less than 5 minutes, a CT (computerized tomography) scan can layout detailed pictures of your insides. Sunnybrook’s 4 CT scanners do this nonstop, sending nearly 200 patients through the ‘giant donut’ every single day. It’s a common procedure, so what do you need to know if you’re having a CT scan?
First step: confirm your appointment. Then, make sure you don’t eat for 3 hours before your scan. The good news is, you can drink as many clear fluids as you want! In fact, before your scan, you’ll most likely be asked to drink a cup of water infused with a special contrast agent. Basically, that’s a dye that will make your inner organs easier to see. And drinking plenty of fluids before and after your scan will help that dye work its way out of your system.
It’s important to also leave yourself lots of time. Besides traffic and parking delays, you may also need additional blood work before you scan is done. That might delay things by 90 minutes, so make sure you have plenty of coin in the parking meter! It may seem like a pain, but the results from the blood work will help the technologist figure out which dye is safest for your body.
After that, it’s off to the change room and in to the infamous hospital gown. Some people may also require an IV if it’s determined that they need a special kind of dye. Now here’s the weird part: you will get a metallic taste in your mouth, and will feel like you’ve just urinated. You haven’t, and this is completely normal. These sensations also pass quickly.
When you scan is done, it’s a good idea to sit for a few minutes to make sure you are OK. After that, drink plenty of clear fluids and eat what you like. Donut anyone?
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I was down at Yonge and Dundas Square for a total of one minute when I was bombarded. Teens on cell phones were everywhere, chatting, chewing gum, running to get across the street while making plans that apparently couldn’t wait. (Did I just age myself?) Keeping in touch with friends is one thing. Now, Sunnybrook researchers are hoping teens will use their cell phones to keep in touch with their own feelings, too.
Teens enrolling in a new nine-month study will be given specially equipped Motorola cell phones that will prompt them to fill out a daily mood questionnaire, and explain what’s affecting how they feel. Like that latest fight with their parents, or maybe losing last night’s soccer game. All this information is then sent back to Sunnybrook in real time, helping figure out what, if any, treatment the teen may need.
It’s a very cool idea, considering the majority of teens do own a cell phone. Adolescence is also the period when many mood disorders emerge. A typical part of treatment includes keeping a so-called mood journal, to track of all the ups and downs. The problem is, most teens have no interest in the handwritten “dear diary” approach. With this study, researchers want to find out if the cell phone is be a better alternative. I have a good feeling it will certainly be the ‘cooler’ option.
If you are between 14 and 20 and want more information on the study, click here.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
It’s funny how extreme pain makes you remember things. The first time I went into labour, I’ll never forget the glaring lights and sterile environment of the hospital. As I wandered in circles around the labour and delivery corridors trying to speed the process along, the bland paint color was hardly the inspiration I needed to bring new life into the world. Where were the seafoam and buttercream accents that adorned every designer nursery I had committed to memory? Where was the warming fireplace? Where could my husband get some sleep? Turns out, those ideas were slowly growing here at Sunnybrook. And on September 12, 2010, they’ll be delivered just for you.
The new Women & Babies Program will welcome about 4,250 new little babies into the world every year, many being some of the sickest preemies in Ontario. While function normally trumps style in the hospital setting, the new unit manages to fuse both worlds beautifully. Good designers always recommend filling a space with things you love that actually work with your lifestyle. The 2 new floors here at Sunnybrook, which span 120,000 square feet, were created after consulting with staff and family members. Let’s just say the ‘need’ list and the ‘wish’ list are getting along splendidly. From twinkly lights to help soothe preemies, to an NICU that will change the standard of care, no detail was overlooked.
Knock on wood, both of my labours went well (if not slowly). The babies wowed, even if the décor did not. Luckily, new mothers at Sunnybrook can now enjoy the best of both worlds. Welcome to the future of having babies!
For a virtual tour of the new Women & Babies Program at Sunnybrook, click here