Bleed, on warfarin


The thing is, you see, blood thinners
prevent blood from clotting.

That’s their job.
They do it well.

Great for preventing strokes.
Not so great for stopping
bleeding you don’t want.

Rush to the ER and wait
while the hour hand inches
around the clock face –

two bloody hospital gowns
and two kidney bowls worth –

for someone to come and
stop the bleeding.

Stagger away at last,
home to the waiting bed
to sleep off the memory.

I’m not squeamish about blood; I’ve seen plenty of it in my day. However, when you’re watching someone you love bleeding in the middle of the night and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, you can get a little frantic.

You’ve called the 24/7 nursing advice line and exhausted their recommendations without any discernible result, so they finally tell you to go to your nearest emergency room.

There are plenty of nurses available in the ER, but they can do nothing more than has already been done.  The lone doctor covering the entire ER at this hour is in the washroom throwing up, sick himself.  He won’t be seeing anyone.

You have a two-hour wait until the next physician comes on duty–which doesn’t mean that’s when you’ll get to see him, because you’re not the only one waiting for him, not by a long shot.

Back in June, our local newspaper informed us, “No more hours-long waits to see a doctor in London emergency rooms.  That’s a key promise in a bold plan unveiled by hospital officials who say they’ll cut to no more than 30 minutes how long it takes to be seen by an ER doctor. That’s a tall order for emergency rooms whose waits in recent years have been among Ontario’s longest.”

A tall order indeed.  In our case, we were seen by the triage nurse within minutes of arriving at the hospital. Much to our surprise, we were shown directly to our cubicle after the triage.

However, there the process ground to a complete halt.

There we waited hour after hour for a doctor to come and perform the procedure that stops the bleeding, while bright red blood slowly filled towels and bowls and splashed over hospital gowns.

Repair in this case is not a complex operation.  It involves applying silver nitrate to the tear in the vein–and then, if necessary, packing the area with gauze.  But the patient bled for four hours before this simple procedure could take place.

I realize that a couple of cups of blood are easy for the body to replace. After all, we lose about a pint of blood when we donate at a blood drive. The mind tells you this.

But the mind also wonders what would have happened if it had been two litres of blood instead.  There’s still no backup physician on board at this hour of the night to cover while the poor soul on duty has his head in the toilet.

The plain truth is that in a situation like this, I’m forced to rely on a system that has long since lost my trust.

Too many people in this province are unable to get appointments with their family doctors on short notice.  As a result, too many go to ERs even though they don’t really require emergency treatment.  Far too many patients fall through the cracks when multiple specialists and other health-care providers are involved in their care.

And why is there only one doctor providing nighttime ER coverage in a major metropolitan hospital?

According to the World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems, when it comes to keeping their citizens healthy, the top five countries are France, Italy, San Marino, Andorra, and Malta.  Canada ranks 30th; the US, 37th.

Yet here in Ontario last year, our provincial government apparently spent $51 billion (42 percent of its entire budget) on health care.  It seems clear to me that we taxpayers should be getting much more value for our hard-earned money.

So why aren’t we?



  1. Good questions… And a big mystery I don’t understand. Having lived for many years without insurance, and experiencing what treatment I would NOT be given without it, I made “benefits” a major priority in my life. ‘Benefits’ — no. That should be RIGHTS. I’m sorry to hear Canada is as bad as the US in this. 😦


    1. Different systems–both of them flawed. As a survivor of the hospital system myself (most recently from cancer surgery followed a year later by repair of SIX incisional hernias on that same surgery site), and now caregiver to my husband, I find it both exhausting and scary to feel so alone.

      I used to believe that the medical system and I were on the same team, back in the day when hospital care in my home province of Quebec was immediate, inclusive and well managed. But that was nearly a half-century ago, and things are certainly different nowadays!

      I’m also far from the only person with stories to tell. These days, I’m hearing many people talk about getting lost between the cracks in the health care system. What will happen as the baby-boomer “old-age avalanche” gets well and truly under way is something I can’t even bear to imagine.

      Namaste, Sue

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sandy! Thanks for visiting my blog.

      You’re right; it IS shocking, and more than a little scary. We’ve unfortunately been frequent visitors to that ER in the past several years, and the experience from start to finish hasn’t yet taken less than five hours, with eight hours the record length of time between arriving and leaving again after being seen. That’s a long time to be cooling your heels waiting for help. Unfortunately we’ve been unlucky enough, more often than not, to be stuck dealing with issues that occur well after our (normally very accommodating) family doc has closed up shop, so if Telehealth can’t help with the problem, there’s really nowhere else to go but the hospital. 😦


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