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On the prowl for the elusive specialist — another ode to the MGH

John Udy

December, 2009

Although all other encounters with the Montreal General Hospital have been positive, this is a record of my bizarre introduction to this establishment.

I had been given an appointment with the specialist who heads up a research program dealing with my medical problem. Thus I approached the hospital’s information desk to inquire as to his whereabouts. No one there had even heard of him, so they invited me to use their information phone. I was given a quick response so I headed off to find the person. As it turned out, she knew nothing of my specialist, but bent my ear explaining to me what she did know. When I was finally able to tear myself away, I high tailed it back to the information desk and its telephone appendage.

I explained my need again and was given new directions. The elevators in the hospital are confusing. They perversely are either going in the wrong direction or not to the floor or wing you need, but I soldiered on and finally found the unit I’d been sent to – a wide desk under an impressive canopy. The receptionist ignored me until she had finished a long private telephone call, then told me I would have to go to the waiting room and wait my turn. This I did and eventually my name was called, to be served by another receptionist at the the other end of the impressive desk. This person was far more cooperative and wanting to help, but she also had not heard of my specialist. It was suggested that perhaps he was associated with another hospital – Saint Mary’s and the Royal Vic were named as possibilities. I was beginning to believe that she was right, when entirely by chance a woman passing by, overhearing the conversation, broke in to tell me exactly where his research unit was located! But for her, I might still be wandering the corridors of some hospital looking for the elusive unit.

But now, at last, I knew where I was going, so down the corridors to the accursed elevators I went. My initial attempts to find one going my way failed miserably, but finally, the one I needed was just opening its doors, so I made a dive for it. Unfortunately, at this very moment, along comes a worker with an empty, hand held forklift. Taking no notice of my mad dash, he plowed on ahead and the long metal blades slipped under my feet. I fell with a thump and my elevator escaped me once again. He made no attempt to help me up nor did he say he was sorry. (Perhaps he thought that to do so might make him liable.) Nor did any of the three or four people waiting in the area stoop to help me up. I think they were in shock, as was I. With a groan, I painfully rolled over and got up on my own.

I finally made it to my specialist. I had started off 20 minutes ahead of my appointment, having been driven by my daughter, Helene, but ended up 20 minutes late. He could not locate my blood test, made at a CLSC two weeks before, perhaps sent to Saint Mary’s by mistake, so he made use of the tests previouly done for my GP. In a few minutes he was able to tell me to continue with the drug I was already taking. He had nothing to say about my aching back, for as a specialist he knew nothing about what ailed me. I was a bit sore but able to get around with minimum pain, so forgot about it until I got home. Helene was a bit frantic, for she had assumed I would take about 10 minutes instead of 40. She couldn’t leave the car, in fear that we would inevitably miss each other wandering the vast corridors of the hospital.

When I got home, my back problems began to appear– drastically! I could neither get up nor sit down without assistance. I could not even tie my shoe laces and sleeping in my bed was out of the question. Fortunately I had a broken down easy chair in the bedroom that was comfortable enough for me to sleep in. This went on for many days until, gingerly, I was able to sit up, stand up and lie down with a degree of comfort, but every transition took my breath away.

I will probably have these twinges for the rest of my life, and all because somebody had forgotten to put the doctor’s room number on my hospital form. I should have been able to go to the information desk and be instantly given the correct directions instead of misinformation. Is this not why, after all, it is called an “information desk”? Why this was not so was and still is a great mystery – and misery – for me.

Editor’s Note: I met John Udy in the ER of the MGH Friday, November 27, which led to his contributions to this and future issues.



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