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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Much to be thankful for

Here I am sitting in my kitchen looking over at two freshly baked “scratch” pies, pumpkin and apple, cooling on the counter. The smell of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves wafts tantalizingly to where I am perched at my computer. Tomorrow at this time they will be a pleasant memory. Thanksgiving Day will have come and gone.

As long as I can remember, I have loved Thanksgiving. It’s such a low stress day. The weather is usually perfect, sunshiny and a little cool. Having the oven on gives the house a wonderful cosy atmosphere.

There’s no worry about the menu. It’s the same, year in and year out. Turkey with stuffing of bread, mushrooms, apples, raisins, onions and anything else that comes to mind and hand. Lots of gravy over mashed potatoes. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower—with cheese sauce, of course. And some freshly made cranberry sauce and baked squash. Also a salad for righteousness. Everyone pitches in so that there isn’t too much for one person to do.

There’s also no worry about decorating. It’s not like Christmas when everything has to be shiny and silver; for Thanksgiving, nature does the job with a late flush of blooms in the garden, enough to take indoors for a bouquet on the table. A couple of candles and you’re good to go. All you need is family and friends to make the occasion complete.

So I love Thanksgiving. I love the weather, the food, the family and the friends. And dinner is actually on Thanksgiving Day. On Monday. I’m a stickler for tradition. It also works out well since most of my family and friends seem to celebrate on the Sunday before. It means they’re available to join us.

Over the years, I have had many things for which to be thankful: good health, interesting and fulfilling work both paid and unpaid, a supportive family, friends to share my interests and concerns. And when I was a student and later a teacher, Thanksgiving was the first holiday of the academic year!

But this year will be a little special. This year, I have more reason than ever to be thankful.

This year, both Ted—my life’s partner—and I have special reason to be grateful to be living in Canada, in Ontario, In London. We have both had occasion to call on our health care system, and it has not let us down.

In late July, I was diagnosed with cancer; a few weeks later, on my birthday to be exact, I was in surgery. On Tuesday radiation treatments begin. I have every expectation of a full and complete recovery thanks to our excellent public health care system at Victoria Hospital. The care was absolutely wonderful.

But last week, I received a call from Ted while I was doing some volunteer work. He was having severe pain in his throat and his hip, and his lower left leg was paralyzed. A quick call to a neighbour and he was on his way to University Hospital where I met him at the emergency entrance. 

He was seen immediately. X-rays were taken and ultrasound right at the bedside. Not satisfied with the information available, the doctors arranged to have him transferred by ambulance to Victoria Hospital to take advantage of more sophisticated CT scan equipment.

There it was determined that he had an aortic dissection, a tear in the aorta which, untreated, results in death within 24 hours in 25% of cases, within 48 hours in 50% of cases and within 30 days in 90% of cases. It would require complicated surgery. The cardiac team was at University Hospital. So back in the ambulance he went.

At University Hospital it was determined that surgery should be delayed until the blood thinner that had been administered earlier had cleared his system and, since this was a long, difficult surgery, the team was fresh and well-rested.

That night I got less than 45 minutes of sleep; I was preparing for the worst possible eventuality while keeping my hopes pinned on the best outcome. In the morning, Ted and I talked about our hopes while acknowledging the risks involved in stopping a heart and lowering the body temperature in order to make the necessary repairs to the aorta. We discussed final wishes.

“It’s a very dangerous procedure,” the surgeon, Dr. Goldbach, warned me. “This is very, very serious.”

I liked his candour. Rather than creating fear in me, he gave me confidence in his diagnosis and skill.

Nine hours later, that confidence was rewarded when Dr. Goldbach came to the waiting room to inform me that the operation had been successful. “I am very happy,” he said. I was ecstatic.

So this year, Ted will not be at the dinner table. We will not have our usual squabble over whether the turkey is done or not. 

But there will be dinner on the table and there will be family and friends to celebrate with me.

Because this year, we have so much to be thankful for: good food, supportive family and friends, and for the time being, our health, thanks to the dedicated staff at University Hospital and Victoria Hospital, the Ministry of Health and the Canada Health Act which provide us with us our health care.

And thanks to Tommy Douglas whose vision and dedication made our public health care system possible.


Barry Wells said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Gina.

Randy Warden said...

Thank you for your blog Gina. We wish Ted speedy recovery. To you and your family, Happy Thanksgiving.

FPG said...


The happy outcomes of the recent health problems experienced by you and Ted provide welcome evidence that sometimes good things happen to good people.

Your many friends have much to be thankful for indeed.

As the Irish say; May you live as long as you want and want for nothing as long as you live!

Rockinon said...

Here's to both you and Ted enjoying many more Thanksgivings together. A wonderful post, perfect for the day. Jonathan Sher of The London Free Press should balance his coverage of our healthcare system with a story or two where he discusses experiences like your's and Ted's.

Anonymous said...

Gina, best wishes to you and Tom for a return to good health. Love ya! Happy Thanksgiving.

Monte said...

Beautiful thoughts beautifully expressed. Our love and good wishes to all at your gathering today, Gina, and special wishes to Ted. Audrey and Monte

Monte said...

Best wishes on the truly Thanksgiving day.

Vicki Van Linden said...

Very best of wishes to you and Ted. It is such good news that both of you have good outcomes to look forward to.

Knowing about your own health challenge makes it even more impressive that you dedicate so much of your time to the research, observation, and writing that you do to keep your fellow Londoners up to date on concerns in our city.

Thanks so much for giving all of us so much of your time and dedication. Thanks so much to Ted for being so generous in sharing you with all of us.

May all good things come to both of you.

Anonymous said...

Gina, I don`t share your politics at all (variety is the spice of life as they say) and it makes no difference when it comes to wishing you and Ted the best for the coming year. So sorry to hear about your diagnosis and Ted`s illness and I am glad that you are both on the road to recovery. Best wishes to you both and Happy Thanksgiving (I hope the turkey was perfect).

Anonymous said...

Gina, with your permission I would like to copy this and send it to some of my American friends that are convinced the great socialist State of Canada has a D- health care system. I will give full credit to you and the web site. This is the perfect answer to their misguided assertions.
William H. Gudgeon

Why's woman said...

Dear Gina,

Happy Thanksgiving ... and Happy days to come. I am thankful to hear that you are well and Ted's surgery went well. A friend in Ottawa had the same surgery five years ago; he's back curling.

Yes ... thanks to Tommy Douglas and our health care workers.

Big hug,

Why's Woman

Anonymous said...

Oh Gina I'm so glad to hear your positive, somewhat miraculous imo, experiences with our Universal Canadian Medical Care System, but sad to hear you needed it.

Since Ted was laid up and unable to bicker with you over the turkey, I'd just like to say...mushrooms in the stuffing? yucky mushy rubbery 'shrooms slightly seasoned with sage...chestnuts are better, with a bowl of mushrooms fried in butter on the side...Best Wishes to you and Ted. Feel better soon.

Gina Barber said...

@Anonymous Feel free to use whatever you wish from the blog in letting your friend know what a wonderful health care system we have. And no one asked for a credit card!

Sandy said...

Good to hear that you are back blogging. Best wishes to you and Ted. Let your friends know when visits are appropriate!