Here is my first experience at CHEO over the weekend, with my 18 month old daughter.

A family vacation turned into a tragic experience.

We flew to Cuba over the weekend of March 27, 2015. On Saturday 6 pm, we went to the beach at our resort in Varadero, Cuba. What was going to be a pleasant relaxing moment turned into a tragic event. Just as we sat on the beach chairs, my 18 month old daughter caught her right hand middle finger in the beach chair. She completely cut the top part of her middle finger off, down to where the nail ends. Her finger bone was slightly exposed. Both me and my wife panicked. My wife grabbed the separated piece, in hopes that it could be attached again. We called the security guard who right away called the ambulance. For the next 6 hours we were on the roads of Varadero. First to one clinic, where they could not treat the wound, than to the main hospital, where the wound was cleaned and a temporary dressing was done. We got home at midnight. We had to hold her arm up straight the whole night, as my wife and I took turns to rest.

I looked for the first flight back to Ottawa. Flew from Varadero around 2pm Sunday March 28, 2015. We arrived in Toronto around 6 pm. After a 5 hour layover at Pearson, we took our flight at 11 pm to Ottawa. The flight landed around midnight in Ottawa. We went home and grabbed what we required and ran to CHEO (I was afraid that there could be some infection and at the time had more faith in our health system than the Cuba health system). We were at the emergency entrance around 2 am Monday morning.

We went to emergency, explained our situation, and this is what happened next…

I explained the whole episode to the person at the first booth you are supposed to go at the CHEO Emergency. I also told him that the doctors in Cuba gave her antibiotics and that she has to take a dose every 8 hours. To my shock he started laughing and replies “every 8 hours doesn’t mean every 8 hours, you just have to split the 3 dosages throughout the day, once in the morning and second in afternoon and then at night time”. In my head I am thinking that okay I understand, but where is the humour in this? This person knows that my daughter’s fingertip (1 cm long cut off piece) is in my hand and I am in extreme pain, and this is how he comforts me and my wife.

After that, there was no triage done at all. We sat there with my exhausted daughter for the next 5 hours. It was terrible. My baby was in so much pain and I could not do anything but wait. We had been up for almost 40 hours. I went twice to the registration staff and told them exactly what had happened, but no urgency was shown. Around 6:30 am in the morning we went to the inside visitor room. Here after an hour wait, a junior student doctor came. We told her what had happened. She went and came back with scissors and started cutting her bandage. At this point my wife told her that the wound is all dried up and maybe you should make it moist to remove the bandage easily, she continued. Than she did realize that it is very dry and took us near the sink in the waiting room and poured tap water on it to make it moist. She was struggling with unwrapping the wound. I asked her that why is she not taking us into a proper room with the required equipment. At this time my daughter is crying her lungs out as she is full of fear. After asking her twice she took us to another room, which was also not properly equipped. She brought a helper and started opening the bandage. After she opens the bandage, the wound is still fresh and blood starts flowing out again. They then tell me that they have to go locate the proper dressing material for her finger (my daughter is still crying with pain). I was shocked, that how come they don’t have the equipment ready before opening her bandage. This was so excruciating for us. We felt that the treatment in Cuba was better than CHEO. All nurses/doctors leave the room. Here we are, me, my wife and my daughter, waiting helplessly. The blood from my daughter’s finger is now dropping on my wife’s clothes and floor. Her hand is drenched in blood. I go out furiously, looking for some help. I inquire one of the nurses at the counter about, where the staff is that is supposed to help my daughter. She gives me a robotic response, “they will be there soon”. I go back, and grab some more tissue to clean the blood.

After a few minutes 3 student nurses some in with a senior nurse. The students (at least they looked like students due to the instructions they were required to do a simple dressing of my daughter’s fingers), don’t seem to know how to proceed, while blood is still flowing out. One nurse states. “o, there wasn’t this much blood when we left earlier”. My goodness! I did not know what to tell her. Three of them clean the wound and start wrapping it with fresh dressing. Lo and behold after a minute my wife notices that they are not covering her injured finger properly, and repeatedly tells them this, after which they realize and have to open the whole thing and do it again!! There is also a senior nurse behind him who is actually teaching them how to do the wrapping. He is showing them by demonstrating it on one of the nurses. I am thinking if you are qualified, just help my daughter! Why train the staff at this urgent moment. During this, the senior doctor comes to have a look and the only thing I hear him say is “seems like the nail is gone completely!” That is all I hear, after which he gives some instructions to the junior doctor and leaves. Thank you doctor for the comforting lines.

They do a temporary dressing telling me that the plastic surgeon team will come have a look later in the day. It is around 9 am now. We then wait for someone to show up and tell us when the team will be coming. After another half an hour of wait the same junior doctor comes and tells us that you can go home now and you will get a call in a day or two with the plastic surgeon. I explain to her that they did a temporary dressing and how can I go like this. Also, that how will my daughter sleep, because if the wound gets a little bump it will hurt her immense. I asked her if they can cover her hand more that will absorb the impact, she offers me extra dressing material, which I can take home and can wrap myself.

We had no more strength to argue or even utter a single word. We had been up for many hours (I was up for more than 50 hours). We went home, wrapped her finger with some more dressing and tried to get some rest. We got a call on Tuesday evening for our appointment on Wednesday morning with the plastic surgeon. When we came to see her, she also inquired about who did the dressing (this is the dressing the nurses did on my daughter’s finger, the extra one we did, we took it off earlier, as it was only for her sleep time). She actually inquired 3 times, about who did the dressing. I told her this was the staff in emergency.

My faith in the health system of Ontario has been damaged severely.