We must be one of the luckiest nations in the entire universe. At least in terms of health care andwhatever else we enjoy for free. But that doesn’t mean these services should… for lack of a betterword… suck the way they do. I’m sure you’ve heard and probably have a few horror stories of your own.

There’s the one about the guy who went to his community clinic complaining of back pain. The nurse either didn’t believe he was in real pain or just couldn’t be bothered, and set him home with painkillers. When the pain didn’t go away he went back and asked to be sent to see a specialist.

He was refused so he paid his own way to Val d’Or. He was told if he hadn’t come when he did he would have lost his ability to walk.

Then there’s the one about an elderly lady who complained of hip pain.

The doctor performed a perfunctory examination and sent heron her way.

They later found that she had a hip fracture. But it was way too late. She died of blood poisoning.

Still another one about a young woman who went to see a dentist. She’s not sure how it happened but her face swelled up to the size of a watermelon a few hours later and she had to be flown out.

They might say things like this happen all the time and that no one’s perfect. But they seem to be happening more back home if you believe the stories people tell.

My mother, God bless her, was unfortunate to go through a similar experience but she doesn’t have the heart, so to speak, to complain. Picture this: Christmas eve, she’s walking home from church and she has to stop to rest four times. The next morning she can’t even lie down so she sits on the couch. She’s so weak she can’t even lift her arms. My sister calls the clinic and asks the nurse to send a car. They reply, “Can’t she walk over?” (My mom’s in her seventies.) My sister tells them no. “Can she come over by ski-doo?” they ask. “Just send the damn car over!” I scream across the living room. My mom’s hovering close to death and still she’s telling me to be polite.

The ambulance… or what passes for one… arrives and she’s off to the clinic. They tell us she has to be “med’evaced” out to Val d’Or. I am to “escort” her.

A real ambulance is on the tarmac at the Val d’Or airport when we land. My mother

is immediately placed in intensive care but she’s starting to feel better. Her heart rate at theclinic had shot up to the 90’s and was now down to a comfortable 65. They keep her under observationfor a few days while I wait in the Cree patients’ home. It is just the bare essentials here and threemeals a day plus a TV. It is nearly full. A few days later, more patients arrive and they’re placed inthe scuzziest motel in town. A place I stayed in more than once when it was all I could afford. Butthat’s another story.

At last my dear mom is allowed to go and she is given a prescription of three or four different pillsand a patch similar to one they give to smokers who want to quit. The doctor tells us she will go tothe clinic herself to pick up the pills. The next day our ride to the airport arrives. My mom’smedication still hasn’t arrived. I ask the driver about it so she stops at the hospital. She comesout a few minutes later with what I -luckily – recognize as the wrong prescription. I tell her.She tells me they’ll put them on the plane the next day and drives us to the airport. I say somethingrude to her. Something about a lawsuit.

We’re waiting to board when she comes back with a plastic bag from the drugstore. The doctor had leftthe right medication behind the counter.