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Negligence? Incompetence? or Even Soviet Russia did it better


Quick rant on Alberta health care. It SUCKS.  Over the years we’ve had evidence aplenty to witness delays and incompetence on an unimaginable scale, but the consequences of those events has always been mild.  Like the time my cousin broke his thumb, went and spent 7 hours waiting for an x-ray in the emergency room, was sent home and told he’s fine.  THREE DAYS later he received a call, telling him his thumb is in fact broken, they read the wrong x-ray and would he please come back for a splint?  Needless to say, by then, he was splinted up by his parents who did not trust the initial ‘go home you’re fine’, and with good cause.  Or the time my elderly grandma with a broken wrist had her ankles meticulously x-rayed. Or the time my father was given wrong medication. Thankfully none of those mishaps resulted in anything going wrong, it just made for some good anecdotes and head shaking.


This time however, the consequences came perilously close to tragedy. Yesterday morning my brother complained of abdominal pain. By ten AM it was bad enough to go to the hospital with. We all suspected appendicitis, since many in my family had theirs out.  He was given morphine for the pain and kept waiting for many hours until they finally operated. He was wheeled into surgery around eleven hours later.  His appendix was found ruptured, he had peritonitis, and was in real danger of sepsis (blood poisoning).  Now he’s on antibiotics and we only hope he’ll be okay.


Contrast this with my appendix removal which happened when I was six, and in the Soviet Union, no less. I got the sharp pain, within an hour a doctor made a house call. He rolled me over on my left side, gently pressed the abdomen, sharply released, and when I squealed he pronounced ‘appendicitis – get this girl into surgery’.  Within two hours I was blood-sampled, prepped and going under. My appedix was removed intact, and my recovery was painful but easy.


The facts are that some people die from appendicitis or related complications each year.  Some of them in Calgary. While the mortality rates are only 1-2 per million cases, Calgary hospitals manage a rate that seems much higher, with deaths every few years. 


Here’s an excerpt from

“The overall complication rate of appendectomy depends upon the status of the appendix at the time it is removed. If the appendix has not ruptured, the complication rate is only about 3%. However, if the appendix has ruptured, the complication rate rises to almost 59%. Wound infections do occur and are more common if the appendicitis was severe, far advanced, or ruptured. An abscess may also form in the abdomen as a complication of appendicitis.

Occasionally, an appendix will rupture prior to its removal, spilling its contents into the abdominal cavity. Peritonitis or a generalized infection in the abdomen will occur. Treatment of peritonitis as a result of a ruptured appendix includes removal of what remains of the appendix, insertion of drains (rubber tubes that promote the flow of infection inside the abdomen to outside of the body), and antibiotics. Fistula formation (an abnormal connection between the cecum and the skin) rarely occurs. It is only seen if the appendix has a broad attachment to the cecum and the appendicitis is far advanced, causing destruction of the cecum itself.

The complications associated with undiagnosed, misdiagnosised, or delayed diagnosis of appendicitis are very significant. This has led surgeons to perform an appendectomy any time that they feel appendicitis is the diagnosis. Most surgeons feel that in approximately 20% of their patients, a normal appendix will be removed. Rates much lower than this would seem to indicate that the diagnosis of appendicitis was being frequently missed.”

Now note some recent local deaths from a condition that no one in the first world twenty first century should die from:
Jordan Johanson who died from complications following surgery (for which he had to wait 12 hours).  Apparently some changes were to be made to the medical system after his death. Seems to me like they shaved off one hour – congrats!
Savannah Chanthyvong who died at nine, from septic shock following surgery. I cannot imagine.
Vince Motta who died at 23 – several years before Jordan, also at a Calgary hospital:
Seven-month-old Chad Gemoto died Aug. 11, 2000, from a heart attack triggered by shock from appendicitis.
A Court of Queen’s Bench Justice ruled if the boy had been properly cared for he would have survived his appendicitis.
All these tragedies could have been avoided by treating appendicitis as the emergency that it is.  That is one case where waiting even a few hours can mean the difference between life and death.  So unless the local Health Board gets off their duff and really makes some changes, we will continue to see senseless deaths. I have no problems with dying, but dying for no reason at all, from preventable problems  really pisses me off.
This is also why I fully support the two-tier health care system, and free-markets in general. Given the amount of taxes I pay each year, I could have and would have rather hired a pay-per-visit hospital where I could be assured of prompt and COMPETENT care.  Where my brothers life would not be in danger from potentially deadly and fully avoidable complications.  Where the standard of competency and care would be assured, otherwise no one would pay to go there.  
This is not aimed at the many excellent nurses and doctors that work within a broken system paid for by us.  I guess I believe in paying for quality, and when I don’t see any, I’d rather opt out.



#@!%&^ Housework

housework- banner

When I was a kid I was convinced that we (humanity) would have robots to clean our houses by now. I pictured a happy future where there is no vacuuming, laundry folding, where floors mop themselves, and fridges get stocked without any effort. Where our energies as human beings can be best directed towards leisure and hobbies, and thinking up new ways to do less chores. Why did I have this utopia in my head? Because over a span of a few years I watched my mother’s load (and mine) get lighter as unthinkable luxuries became commonplace.

 I’ll never forget the moment when we got our brand new washing machine. It was just a little guy, probably a third of the size of today’s hippos, and you could forget washing say, sheets or comforters in it, but I clearly remember doing a first load of cloth diapers and blankies that belonged to my little brother (no Pampers in Russia), and the magic of that moment can be imagined by anyone who’s ever washed laundry by hand.  

Even though we certainly had a fridge, it was the old model that you had to unplug and de-ice every week, so when we graduated to a frost-free fridge it was a blissful feeling of pure joy – again mainly for my mother, as she could say good-bye to the ritual of removing everything from the freezer, thawing and chipping at the four-inch layer of crud and starting the cycle over again.


Since doing the dishes was my (much hated) job as a kid, my personal nirvana came when we finally got a dishwasher. I must have been about fourteen, and I don’t think anyone has ever been happier that such a piece of magic was here to replace twice daily toil of washing a mountain of dishes.


It seems like my parents generation got a huge boon in technology that really went a ways in making their lives better and easier. From all the household appliances, TV’s, stereos, microwaves, vacuums and blenders there was a sense of excitement in the air as life around the house got easier and less time-consuming. I gave free reign to my imagination trying to picture MY house which seemed oh so far away, and picturing all the wonders I was sure to have, if the rate of progress is any indicator.


So now I have that house. But where is our revolution? Where are our self-cleaning floors, de-clutter machines and laundry folders? Sure we got ipods and blackberries, but they seem to steal time more than free it.  I still spend huge amounts of time each week vacuuming, doing laundry, picking up stray socks and dishes that migrate.  Seems like since the early appliance revolution we’ve been stagnant on the household chores front. Sure everything’s been refined, and now our fridges are quiet and problem-free. Our washers and dryers are huge and all powerful. Our dishwashers rarely need a hand, and they use less energy than doing dishes by hand. But there hasn’t been a really new advance in shrinking the dreaded chores list since then.


I know that there are fridges out there that scan bar codes and let you know when you’re out of milk. Just in case it’s hard to check manually. I HAVE the Roomba vacuum robot, which is a relatively useful gimmick, but not even remotely close to an actual robot. (In case anyone cares – yes, it vacuums. All by itself. BUT, there’s always a but, he requires daily gross filter and brush cleaning. The floor still has to be clutter free for him to be effective, he is rather loud, he will never clean as deep as my built-in, he takes quite a long time to finish the job. So he’s good for light maintenance, but not at all for real cleaning). And I still long for the day when i-robots are a reality. I’ll take my chances on their desire for autonomy, if it means never having to clean again.

 Housework - Roomba

Housework - dog robotHere is a plea for members of my generation that are all about da engineering and such. Lets liberate ourselves once and for all from the time-consuming and brain deadening chores of housework. Let’s stop building dog robots (Japan, I’m talking to you here), and put our dollars into something really useful. Let’s usher in the era of time where after work we can go home to a clean house without a single thing to be put away, wiped down, organized or fixed. Surely as a species we’re smart enough to do this, it’s just a matter of priorities. Someone else can look for the dryer-eaten socks and dust baseboards.  

And to anyone who’s reading: what’s your most dreaded household chore?