Canada, O Canada!

Saturday, September 14–Wednesday, September 18, 2019,

SPOILER ALERT: EVERYONE IS FINE!

Our last morning on the ship. We woke early and had a quick breakfast at the buffet. We had requested the latest disembarkation time possible and had also requested wheelchair assistance for our folks. The wait for available wheelchairs was only slightly shorter than when we boarded, but we did eventually disembark, get our luggage, and find our way to the taxi line. This time we did have curb service, unlike when Sayeed dropped us off.

We had a flight out of Vancouver for the next afternoon, so we checked into our hotel near the airport. We had another “learning” experience courtesy of our taxi driver. The fare from the port to the hotel was $37 and change, Canadian dollars. I handed the driver my credit card. He asked for cash. Dad pulled out his wallet and offered a large US bill. The driver said he only had Canadian bills for change. I gave him $45 US for the fare, which included a (I thought a nice) tip, since he’d been helpful with our luggage and had asked questions about the cruise and seemed interested. It only occurred to me later … the fare in US dollars was less than $28. So I gave him a $17 USD tip, equal to $22 in Canadian dollars. Lesson learned.

The Pittmans and Padgetts walked to the nearby McDonalds for lunch while the Harjos went a bit farther away and also did some shopping. After lunch, we relaxed for a while, then walked the opposite direction to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. The hotel was in a very Chinese neighborhood and we passed at least four other restaurants, but hotel staff had suggested this one. It was quite authentic and very good. Dad asked for coffee. The waitress asked if he wanted, “Hot or cold?” He said, “Hot.” She then asked, “Hong Kong or American?” He responded, “Never mind, I’ll have a beer.” We didn’t know coffee could be so fraught with choices outside of Starbucks.

The food was very good. We ordered an assortment of dishes to share. A chow mein, a fried rice, some shrimp and vegetables. We started with three dishes and the waitress said we needed a fourth. So we added something else and, of course (because we didn’t learn our lesson from the taxi driver) we ended up leaving the equivalent of one full order of food as leftovers behind.

Back at the hotel, we turned on the television and some of us watched, some of us read, some of us dozed. Dad still hadn’t been feeling well, but hadn’t said much.

At about 4:20 Sunday morning, he woke us up and said he wanted to go the hospital. David and I jumped out of bed. David got dressed while I (tried) to call the front desk to ask for an ambulance. The phone in our room wouldn’t work. I finally just went downstairs and asked the desk clerk to call an ambulance. He did. He asked what room number. I told him, “823.” He looked at me a moment then said, “We don’t have 8 floors.” Duh. I don’t know where that came from. “Right. 423.”

I hurried back upstairs and got dressed. I could hear the phone in the room ringing, and Mom trying to answer it, but not connecting because the ringing didn’t stop. We decided that I would go to the hospital with Mom and Dad while David would stay at the hotel to tell the Harjos what was going on, contact the airline if we needed to cancel/change flights. Again: Duh.

The fire truck EMTs were first to arrive, but the ambulance/paramedics were right behind them. They took Dad’s vitals and info, loaded him on a gurney and out of the room. Downstairs, I asked the front desk clerk to call a cab for me (knowing I would pay with a credit card, because … NO MORE CASH PAYMENTS FOR TAXIS!!) The fireman in the elevator told me Dad would probably be taken to Vancouver General because they had the cardiac unit and Dad was a cardiac patient.

Dad was loaded into the ambulance. Mom got into the front to ride with him. David and I conferred quickly. I forwarded him the info about our flights and our trip insurance information, so he could cancel our flights. My taxi arrived, and I asked him to wait because I needed to confirm we were going to Vancouver General. After about five to seven minutes, the ambulance pulled away, but I hadn’t been told where to go. The fire truck fired up their engine to pull out. I waved and hollered, “Vancouver General?” The same fireman from the elevator nodded and hollered back, “Yes, Vancouver General.”

I got in the cab, told the driver, “Vancouver General,” and we took off. As we left, I saw that the ambulance had not actually left after all. They were still in the parking lot. But … maybe it was a second ambulance? That I hadn’t seen? I decided to go ahead to Vancouver General. It was early enough that there was very little traffic. So little that at one intersection, the lights wouldn’t change for us to make a left turn. We had a red light. We waited. And waited. There was no traffic coming from either direction. The driver backed up and pulled forward again to try and trip any sensors. Then we waited some more. And waited. He reversed and drove forward. And we waited. He finally put the cab into Park, opened his door, and ran to the curb, pressed the button for the pedestrian crosswalk. The cross traffic green light immediately turned yellow. And also immediately, a car appeared coming from the opposite direction. So even though we finally had a green light for a left turn, we still had to wait. Sigh.

He eventually delivered me to Vancouver General and took my credit card without a murmur. I found my way to the ER, asked for Dad, but they had no record of him. Of course. So he hadn’t arrived yet. Which was odd. But that just meant he probably was in the ambulance I passed in the hotel parking lot. So I sat and waited.

Vancouver General is a typical urban hospital. I saw … patients from all walks of life there while I waited.

After about ten minutes, an officer asked for names, did some radio chatting and told me Dad had been taken to Richmond General. She directed me where to call for another taxi, which I did. The new cab arrived very quickly and took me to the new hospital and that driver also accepted my credit card without asking for cash. I guess it’s just drivers at the docks who use the cash scam. 

Dad had apparently “crashed,” in the ambulance and they spent some time in the hotel parking lot working on him before transporting him to the hospital. I don’t know if his crisis event made the paramedics decide to take him to the closer hospital (Richmond General) instead of Vancouver, or if the fireman gave me wrong info accidentally.

Mom and I spent Sunday at the hospital, most of it in the ER. We finally went to the cafeteria to get something to eat around 10 am. David was at the hotel dealing with the airline, telling the Harjos what was going on, helping them get off okay to the airport for their flight home, asking the hotel for another night or two for us, or at least getting a late check out while he found somewhere else. I called the travel insurance company and was reassured that everything would be taken care of. In the meantime, David texted to say our hotel was booked and couldn’t give us anymore nights. But–they found us a room at a hotel near the hospital! David transferred all our luggage by himself to the new hotel. 

The new place turned out to be perfect. It was expensive, but we shared a large double room with Mom. It was literally next door to the hospital. We could walk there in three minutes. And a huge, gorgeous park was nearby so we’d see rabbits as we walked.

                      

 

It was still near the airport, so there were lots of hotels around. Which helped with finding dinner places when we were dependent on our feet or taxis or DoorDash for meals.

After several hours in Richmond General ER, Dad was transferred to a room. He ended up spending several days there.

In the ER, a fireman sidled up to me. “Please tell me you have insurance,” he said. I nodded. “Yes, we do. They have excellent insurance.” “Good. You wouldn’t believe the number of Americans who say, ‘But it’s Canada, the health care is free.'” He shook his head. “It doesn’t work that way.” He went on to say Dad was really sick when they picked him up. The fireman also questioned me about the cruise, said they were essentially, “petri dishes,” of germs and gave me the impression that Dad’s issues weren’t related to his heart, that he’d picked up a flu bug or something else on the ship. He was wrong.

Dad had another crisis event Monday morning. He had an angiogram Monday, and an  echocardiogram Tuesday.  

Tuesday was our 42nd anniversary. We went to a nearby hotel for dinner. It was lovely, even though it was not how we’d planned to spend our anniversary. Wednesday was David’s birthday, another day spent not as we’d planned. Dad was released Wednesday, but without clearance to fly. 

Overall, Dad got excellent care. We had opportunities to chat with Canadians about their health care system and we got to observe it up close. It some ways it seemed 20 years behind the US. Supply carts were in the halls, unsecured. The rooms were wards, 4 beds to a room.Patients could watch television on a 1990s blocky computer monitor for $7 CAD 😉 a day. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that. It’s just different. The people we talked to admitted they had to wait months for procedures, but you could buy additional insurance that would speed up the process.

Anyway, once Dad was well enough to be discharged, we discussed our options. Wait a week until he could fly. Take a train home. Rent a car and drive. But you can’t rent a car in Canada to drive one-way to the US. We ended up taking a bus to Bellingham, WA (hoo boy–this post is already too long but that bus trip deserves its own post. Customs … !!), then renting a car, and driving the 1000 miles home.

We left Vancouver around 11:30 AM Thursday morning, September 19, and arrived in Bellingham around 2:15 PM.

Next up: The journey home

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