Margaret Pardy was at a doctor’s appointment in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in early June. After a dozen appointments over six months with no results, she was hoping to receive a diagnosis for a variety of symptoms.
She had lost significant weight, dropping from 140 pounds down to 98.
Pardy’s mother, who resides in Halifax, was with her for support. According to Pardy she broke down during this appointment when the doctor advised it was best to “to wait it out a little longer.”
For Pardy it was the final straw.
“I kind of broke down and I said 'Mom, can you bring me to Halifax, please? They’re not doing anything here,'" recalled Pardy.
The 32-year-old teacher claims the attending doctor replied: "'Well, you’re only going to have to wait for your results out there (in Halifax) too.'”
Margaret Pardy has spent most of her life living in central Labrador. She attended university in Fredericton, N.B., but returned home and began her teaching career at the Sheshatshiu Innu School in 2012.
She still calls Labrador home, but on June 22 she followed through on an idea to move to Halifax in search of better healthcare. Within a few weeks she received a diagnosis and has since been on the mend.
“I was diagnosed within a few weeks. They did a couple more tests on me, I saw a naturopath and a psychologist. I’m diagnosed and I’m on my way back to health…I’m getting back to myself,” said Pardy.
“It was a whole bunch of symptoms mixed together and it made my body crash.”
Pardy has also been enjoying city life, and the increased accessibility to services.
“I absolutely love the city. There’s a lot of green spaces, a lot of lakes – everything I like about home in Labrador is here as well,” said Pardy.
“There’s access to everything. You have an opportunity to get into a hobby you want to get into…you can do whatever you want to. Even going to a movie is a totally different experience in Halifax. Just access to normal, everyday things are wonderful.”
Pardy’s health problems began in November of 2018, when she began experiencing nausea, sweating, and vomiting. She noticed the symptoms would occur like clockwork, around the same time each month.
“It happened every month since then, the same time every month, about a week after my period,” said Pardy.
“Nobody back home could figure out what it was.”
Pardy says between November and June, she saw several different doctors, including a surgeon, to try to find a diagnosis. She felt none of the professionals were listening to her or taking her symptoms seriously.
“They all said they couldn’t see anything wrong.”
“They did a lot of bloodwork. They did bloodwork every time I went to that hospital, and nothing ever came back. So, I’m not sure why they kept doing it.”
Pardy also received an ultrasound, which failed to reveal a cause for her symptoms. She had an appointment for a stomach scope but the doctor decided the procedure was unnecessary.
The lack of diagnosis for such a long time took a toll on her professional life. She would miss two or three days of work in a row when the symptoms would flare. Worst of all, however, was the heavy emotional toll the health problems created.
“It was really frustrating to say the least. There were days and nights where I cried...I was frustrated. I was hungry, but I couldn’t eat.”
When Pardy began seeing doctors in Halifax, she immediately felt like she was being listened to, and her symptoms taken seriously.
She received a diagnosis for several issues, which compounded to wreak havoc on her body. One of the most significant diagnosis was the cause of her stomach issues.
“The doctor said I have migraines that present themselves in my stomach, which are induced by hormones. And that’s why it happened a week after my period every single time,” said Pardy.
The young woman from Labrador was also sent to see a psychologist, who said her previously diagnosed anxiety had worsened. She was also told she depression and symptoms of PTSD.
But that wasn’t all. After seeing a naturopath, Pardy found out for the first time that she suffered from egg intolerance, sugar intolerance, and an inability to digest potassium.
“These things I would have never found out if I didn’t have access to my amazing naturopath out here,” she said.
“Thank you to the doctors who were willing to listen to me out here. It made a world of difference. I felt like my opinion and my symptoms mattered. I felt like I finally had a voice.”
Pardy feels fortunate she had family in Halifax and was able to quickly move to the area. She feels for those who don’t have the opportunity to make such a drastic change for the sake of their health.
“I think (my medical problem) was beyond the scope of what they could do back in Goose Bay, which is not okay,” said Pardy. “I think of elders, or people who might not speak English, and they just have to live in Labrador and suffer.”
“Goose Bay is so lacking, it is ridiculous.”
A spokesperson from Labrador Grenfell Health said they can’t comment on individual cases, but anyone who feels unsatisfied with the care they receive can file a complaint.
“We take patient care very seriously and encourage anyone who is unsatisfied with the care they receive to reach out to our Client Relations Department, which investigates all concerns reported to them and maintains communication with the individual submitting the complaint,” the spokesperson said in an email to The Labrador Voice.
Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper said he sympathizes with Margaret Pardy and others in his district who encounter problems with the healthcare system.
“My heart just pours out for her and people who are going through the same kind of struggle. At the end of the day, it’s about your life, and it’s about access to the kind of healthcare we should enjoy,” said Trimper.
The Labrador politician is used to hearing these kinds of stories.
“The number one grouping of inquiries that my office receives is around healthcare at Labrador Grenfell Health,” he said.
Trimper said he’s frustrated with the struggle to recruit and retain doctors. The region's remote, northern area makes that task challenging.
"So much of providing these services is attracting physicians,” said Perry. “We have specialist positions (vacant); there’s equipment sitting here but we don’t have the people to operate them. It’s frustrating as heck.”
Trimper is hoping new daycare centres opening in Happy Valley-Goose Bay will help keep doctors.
“We’ve lost doctors here because we’ve been unable to take care of doctors’ children.”
He also encourages anyone who has a negative experience at a Labrador hospital to use the official complaints process at Labrador Grenfell Health.
“One should go to them directly. They need that kind of feedback,” said Trimper.