A healthcare success story

Published on December 5, 2013

It’s now a little over a year since my health scare and ordeal started and I promised myself I would, at some point, tell the public of my health-care experience with Eastern Health during this journey. So here I go.

I retired on July 1, 2012, after a 35-year banking career, and at the age of 55. I had never really been sick in my life, except a couple of flus, and probably never missed more than 10 or so days ill in my whole career: probably a little spoiled when it came to sickness.

On Oct. 19, 2012, after having a test done, I was informed I had colon cancer and would require major surgery ASAP and possibly another surgery five or six months after the first surgery. I hadn’t been sick. In fact, I had played over 100 rounds of golf from May to October, did a lot of stuff around my home and even painted most of the inside of our home during November, just before I was scheduled for my first surgery on Dec. 4.

Needless to say, when all you hear in the media about health care is negative over the past several years and having never experienced the health-care system personally, I was a worried never-been-sick man. And, of course, the thought of two major surgeries and recovering from them was a real concern. Would chemotherapy and radiation treatments be required? What would the doctor find when he did the surgeries? Obviously, a lot of reasons to be concerned and upset.

When things go right

I feel I must tell my story of my experience with my personal doctor (Heather Woodland), and the surgeon/specialist, Dr. William Pollett, his team, the nurses and other hospital staff at St. Clare’s Hospital.

Right from the start, my doctor took action to do her best to get me in for the test to determine if there was a problem. The wait could have been up to six months, but she worked to get me in as soon as possible, as she was very concerned about the symptom I was showing.

And from there, I became a patient of the St. Clare’s Hospital team made up of Dr.  Pollett and an amazing team of nurses and support staff on 6th Floor East. My first surgery was Dec. 4, and if I said everything went excellent, I would be lying. The first week was what I called a week from hell, with complications and sickness like I’ve never experienced in my 55 years and that I wouldn’t wish on any human being.

The compassion, care, patience, dignity, respect and professionalism which I received from the hospital team of nurses and doctors was incredible. They couldn’t do enough to help make me comfortable and help me with my recovery.

The second week got a little better and I got home after two weeks in hospital, on Dec. 18.

Then the community health nurses took over, visiting me at home many times over the next month or so, as I was in no condition to visit them, and they were all just excellent and very caring and professional as well. And on Dec. 20, Dr. Pollett called me at home to let me know my pathology report was complete and “no treatments required” — Merry Christmas!

On April 23, 2013, I had my second surgery and was afforded the same quality of care as during the first surgery by the same team on 6th Floor East at St. Clare’s Hospital. This time, I visited the community health nurses as I was in better condition, and again, I received the best of care.

During my two stays in hospital, I was on a ward with three other men each time and witnessed how they were treated. Hospital staff really made every effort to treat everyone with the same care, compassion, respect, dignity and professionalism. Of course, there have been many follow-up visits since April and the same care has been received.

Plenty of good

Having been through this ordeal over the past year has given me a sense of confidence in the front line of our health-care system, which is far beyond anything I thought when it all started. I feel very fortunate to be continuing in my recovery stage of this ordeal, and while there will always be problems in the health-care system, I believe, for the most part, they are not front-line related, but rather behind the scenes, and this is where more focus is needed.

The nurses, in particular, are an incredible team at St. Clare’s 6th Floor East, and even the many younger, less-experienced ones, far exceeded my expectations.

How they deal with some situations

was far beyond my comprehension, with patience, compassion, care, respect, dignity and professionalism I haven’t witnessed anywhere else in the public domain. They have more patience than I’ve ever witnessed anywhere in my life.

When all this started, I was a worried man, to put it mildly, but through the support of family and friends, my doctors and the medical team of nurses and support staff at St. Clare’s Hospital, and community health services, I am today, I hope, in my final stages of recovery and hope to be as good as new over the next year or so.

It is a long haul but I am thankful for our health-care system, which, while not perfect, is far better than it is sometimes perceived to be.

I’m sure many places in the world can only wish for such care.

A sincere thank you to all.

Bren Follett writes from St. John’s.