Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

In the small window of time before leaving for Europe, I had the pre-op for my cataract surgery scheduled. Since this was the day before an international conference that I’ve been working on for months, it was a busy day.

I find the hospitals, like most public institutions in Canada, to be interesting reminders of citizenship. Generally, the health care professionals are more than capable. Public services are an equalizer. Priorities (e.g. emergencies) are mostly driven by need, rather than social status (i.e. money doesn’t usually help jump the queue). In the best demonstration of Max Weber’s machine bureaucracy , pretty well everyone gets the same level of care and treatment. It’s likely that in the perverse Canadian way, the more a person raises his or her voice, the more he or she will be flagged as someone annoying. (In either the American or French culture, it’s probably a way of “getting noticed”).

The pre-admission facility at St. Michael’s Hospital, from a business perspective, seems pretty well thought out. On the one hand, it provides efficient pre-op services. The patient stays in a little room. Then, a nurse comes to take a medical history, various technicians come through (e.g. the blood technician takes a sample), and a doctor does a physical exam. From a function of bedside manner, however, the facility also seems to be on the path towards reducing anxiety in the patient. There’s a standard video that is played. (I was entertained by the shots of not doing anything requiring motor control on the day of anaesthesia, which not only included driving cars, but also cutting vegetables in the kitchen!) The doctor answers any final questions that the patient may have. I suppose that this is a last opportunity to back out, if the patient has any second thoughts about elective surgery!

One personal downside of the medical system is, though, that western medicine doesn’t seem to recognize Chinese medicine. When I commented about my resting pulse changing from 84 to 60 in the past month, the doctor seemed to think that was normal. He said that a person’s pulse can change walking across the room. This feels a bit too much like denial of symptoms, and a potential blindness in a western philosophy of medicine.

The pre-op took 90 minutes, meaning that I was finished just in time to dial into a teleconference call. I’ve been taking the subway and bus to get to work, and getting on the subway would mean that I would miss much of the conference call. As a tactical decision, I confirmed with the subway fare collector that the College/Carlton/Gerrard streetcar runs to Main Street station on the Danforth line. From the Main Street station, it would be a few subway stops over to Warden, where I connect to the northbound bus. Thus, I could take the streetcar as a wending alternative to the subway, and continue to receive a mobile phone signal.

Thus, I got onto the Yonge Street subway at Queen, and went two stops north to College Street. I dialed into the conference call, and in 10 minutes, the streetcar pulled up. The right route … but a sign in the front said that the streetcar wasn’t following the prescribed route, and would turn south at Parliament and go across to Kingston Road and Victoria Park. Without more information, I decided that moving east was better than not moving at all, so I got on the streetcar.

It was a good idea to be on the conference call — there’s all sorts of minutiae that turns up the day before a conference starts. About 30 minutes later, I was at Kingston Road and Victoria Park. I got off. The streetcar went around a loop and returned westbound. I was still on the teleconference, but there’s no TTC service that connects at that point!

After walking around in circles for 10 minutes, I decided to take a taxi to a subway station. (The conference call went on for another 15 minutes after I got there!)

As a downtowner, we make jokes about being in Scarberia (i.e. the depths of Scarborough), but I usually don’t take the TTC there. This is probably more than I wanted to know about the transit system in Toronto.

April 18th, 2006

Posted In: health

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