In March 2018, I left a Florida Emergency Department with a doctor’s words still ringing in my ears: “We’ve adjusted our parameters for treating people your age” he said. With a pulse of 39 and a blood pressure of 202 over 97, the young physician sent me home with a note to see my family doctor.
My instincts told me something wasn’t right. I’ve been healthy all my life—I work out five times a week and walk my dog three times a day. I called my insurance company and the woman on the phone said, “Mr. Shore, my advice to you is to come home.”
My wife Lori and I had planned to spend the rest of the winter in Florida but the next day we were packed up and on our way back to Kingston.
A few days after we got home, on Saturday, March 10th, I suddenly felt really strange. I went to my wife and said “You’d better get me to the hospital.” When we lived in Newcastle, we had to go all over for health care—Bowmanville, Oshawa, Toronto. In Kingston, I’m five minutes away. And that night, every minute mattered.
I arrived at Kingston Health Sciences KGH site Emergency Department around 10:00 p.m. The nurse in triage was just excellent. She took all the data I was able to give her and immediately took my pulse and blood pressure and said “I’ll be right back.”
The next thing I know they were zipping me in to the emergency. “Whatever it is,” I thought to myself, “they’ll figure it out and I’ll get it taken care of.” They put me in a trauma bay and hooked me up to all the machines and the doctor came in and said, “Mr. Shore, you need a pacemaker and you need it now.”
They stabilized me that night and by Monday afternoon I was in the operating theatre. Under local anaesthetic, with a nurse right by my side the whole time helping to keep me comfortable, I felt so blessed to have such fine people caring for me.
At home, about two weeks later, everything hit me again: my blood pressure jumped and my pulse dropped. Back to the Emergency Department I went. Again, I didn’t wait more than 15 or 20 minutes. When the attending physician came to talk to me, I had started to feel better and I apologized to him, feeling guilty for having come in for something trivial.
The young doctor said, “Mr. Shore, when you come to the Emergency Department your job is to tell us about your symptoms. My job is to figure out what’s wrong with you and that’s what we’re trying to do. Between the two of us we’ll sort this out.”
We never did determine the source of the problem that night but the doctor kept me there until he felt confident enough to say, “Everything looks good; you’re under control.” I have been well ever since and my pacemaker does what it’s supposed to do.
But as I lay there during that second visit I had time to look, listen and reflect. The care at KGH is excellent but the Emergency Department itself is worn and shabby. My first visit I was in a trauma bay with walls. But the second time I was in a stretcher bay with curtains. With so little privacy you cannot help but absorb the suffering going on around you.
My wife and I spent 13 years as bereavement counselors after we each lost our first spouses to cancer. Pain and sorrow are subjects we know something about.
I thank the Lord for all the many blessings and I count among them such high quality care, close to home. And I sincerely hope and pray that the community will join me in supporting health care. It is not something any of us should take for granted.
The hasty diagnosis in Florida still lingers but it does not overshadow my feelings of gratitude. When I was on the operating table last March, and the doctors were very nearly finished installing my Pacemaker, I said, “I just want to take a minute and thank you all. I know you are very highly skilled and highly trained but I sure appreciate what you are doing for me. So many people in the world don’t have this kind of care available to them.”