Fixin’ a hole…

The conditions seemed perfect. Winter hadn’t made up its mind whether to encase us in ice or drown us in rain. But the erratic conditions had lulled me into thinking neither did I have to shovel the driveway because a thaw would melt it, nor should I believe Wiarton Willy that spring was less than six weeks away. Then it happened.

“Ted,” my wife shouted, “we’ve got a leak in the bedroom ceiling.”

Sure enough, one of the bedroom light fixtures was dripping with water. And it wasn’t condensation. It was a serious, steady drip. And I thought, “How could it be leaking?” Well, when my wife and I (admittedly non-handy people) put our heads together, we deduced that somewhere in the attic, somehow water had seeped through the shingles, roof boards and rafters onto the ceiling and was flowing to the lowest point, our fixtures.

The next day, I called one of the handiest guys I know. And he leapt into action. Up he went into the attic for a closer look. He poked around through the piles of insulation and along the trusses, and he found dampness that led to the edge of the roof.

“It’s probably ice forcing its way up from the eaves and under the shingles,” he said. “Water flows in mysterious ways.” And with that he was outside, up an extension ladder with a crowbar and smashing the ice from the eaves trough to remove part of the problem.

It seemed like a straightforward plan – chop the ice out of all the eaves, not just those on that side of the house. So, on Saturday when the outside air warmed to plus 10 degrees, I climbed up my own ladder and began bashing all the ice from our eaves troughs.

It took me all day. But the assault on the ice in the troughs was not without its setbacks. In one of my over-zealous thrusts with the crowbar, I opened up an unplanned exit hole in one of my troughs. Then I smashed a couple of my fingers. They began to swell and turn black and blue.

It was then I remembered I had another important obligation on Saturday. In order to deal with a different malady – some chronic pain in my neck and shoulders – my doctor had booked me into Markham Stouffville Hospital for an MRI. And attempting to make full use of the MRI apparatus, the hospital had booked my appointment for Saturday night about 9:45.

“Have you any screws, plates or metal implants in your body?” the technician asked me at the hospital in preparation for the MRI.

“I used to,” I said. “But the pacemaker I had was removed a couple of years ago. And I’ve had an MRI since to check out my heart.”

Well, like the ice melting in my eaves trough and seeping into my house, I soon learned that the route to getting my MRI wasn’t nearly as easy as it appeared. As I sat there, stripped down to my skivvies and hospital gown, ready for action on the MRI table, I wondered why there was a hold up. Finally, the MRI technician emerged from her office.

“There’s no record of your having the pacemaker removed,” she said.

“Look at the scars,” I told her as I showed her where the implant had been. “Don’t you trust my word? The metal’s gone”

“It’s not a matter of trust,” she said. “I need verification.”

What became clear in that frightening moment for both patient and health-care provider was that Ontario’s long touted electronic health data system had absolutely no record of my former procedure. Not the application of a band-aid nor the administration of an aspirin, mind you, but the removal from my chest, some three years before, of a potentially lifesaving device. And despite all my suggestions as to where to acquire the evidence, and all her online efforts to retrieve it, we came up empty handed.

“Our facility can’t talk to your facility,” she said. “No MRI tonight.”

I don’t know what annoyed me most about the experience. I was angry that my wife and I had altered our Saturday to accommodate the evening appointment. I was frustrated that my word on the implant removal wasn’t to be trusted over an electronic record, which Ontario Health online couldn’t yield. And I don’t have to tell you how exorbitant that two-hour parking fee was.

Twenty-four hours later, I’d retrieved the paper documents proving I had no metal in my chest. The chief of the MRI service had called me back to Markham Stouffville for an X-ray to verify I had no metal in my body. And I’d repeated the trip to the hospital to complete the MRI procedure. At the end of it all, I thought about the coincidental breakdowns in my roof and in the Ontario Health electronic data system. Neither is fixed nor its repair assured.

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