Whistler comes to stay

Whistler came to stay in May for a few days. He’d finished his ski season at Sunshine Peaks and when the hotel closed for the season, he was on his way back to his parent’s home to say hello, all the while looking for a summer job to tide him over to the next ski season.

Whistler is thirty-five and though he has a University degree in geology, he’s never practiced in the profession. Job hunting was tough when he graduated and he either had to go back to university for a Masters to get anything decent in the way of a job or settle for something more mundane. With his love of skiing, he found a  job in the hotel industry and had worked his way up to desk manager. It was a good enough living if one didn’t have lots of bourgeoisie dreams of house and family, but it worried my sister Heather that he wasn’t going anywhere.

And now it was September. Whistler had not found a job. He was visiting at his parent’s home with his brother who also had come, from Japan with wife and child in tow. Even so, though he had sent out resume after resume, he was tired and dispirited. His energy levels seemed depleted and his response to any reply he got from potential employers was lacksidaisical.

“Yes,” he told me, ” I could have worked in a Vancouver hotel, but the rents were too high, so it wasn’t worth it; and I was offered a job at Blackcomb, but I went for three days and couldn’t find accommodation so I had to turn it down.”

When we held the Fortieth Wedding Anniversary party for Heather and her steadfast husband, Whistler came down from Sechelt with them and he never left here afterwards. His lethargy had become worrisome and there were other signs that needed checking out. At first the doctor said it was an infection, and then when the antibiotic treatment made not a whit of difference, further tests were required.

“Just don’t get the big C. OK?” my sister Lizbet urgently whispered to him in his ear one day. She’d just been through a spring session of having pre-cancerous patches removed from her face and there were still a few red spots where the skin, not yet fully healed,  had been abraded from her cheeks.

Whistler’s tests needed to be done over a period of weeks. Since he was technically homeless while he waited to find his dream ski job, he had to make a decision – miss the party and stay in Sechelt while the test were done, or come to the party and stay with me in Maple Ridge, find a new doctor who would take him on for the length of time it took to get a medical appraisal of his situation.

There were tests to be done at labs and specialists to see. Sechelt would have meant trips into Vancouver and back. That would not only be tiring and time wasting, but costly also, and Whistler was now out of work, had been for three months and his Visa Card was mounting up to max.

Now, if you are aware of the crisis in medicine these days, you will know that trying to get a doctor to look after you is a dicey thing. When I first came to live here a year ago, I could find no one but rotating walk-in clinic doctors to care for me, so for the small things that befell me, I went to these doctors. Then I had a bout of something more serious and in three visits I got three different diagnoses from the same clinic! I went scurrying back to my Burnaby doctor even though I had miles to drive to get there. I trusted her. She knew my history for the past 12 years. She was lovely and not a) officious b) disdainful nor c) obviously uninterested as the three walk-in clinic physicians had been.

When I went to get a family doctor who would keep me as a patient (I wanted none of this rotating door business) in April, I was advised that there was one doctor in town who would see me and I could have an interview with her to see if she would take me on. “You understand, she might or might not like you. She doesn’t just take anyone. We’re just receptionists. We can’t just tell her that she’s got a new patient now,” said her nurse. “There’s an appointment open to see her in July – July 28th. Will that be fine? Shall I pencil you in?”

July!

July was three months away. Just to get an appointment!

Pencil me in? I had visions of erasers dancing through the appointment books at night, searching for vulnerable patients, first time supplicants, wiping out their dates with destiny, driving the poor, the sick and elderly out of the book so that the doctor who had spent years training for his or her profession could pick the cream of the crop, the body builders pure in shape, the bikini girls with flawless skin, the fashion plates in perfect size 10, the men who looked like the models in Sears catalogue, mothers with well behaved children and grandfathers with a Maurice Chevalier je-ne-sais-quoi kind of dapper elegance.

On his own, still mobile but not very energetic, Whistler started to do the rounds of the walk-in clinics trying to find a doctor. To his credit, and perhaps to the credit of the doctors, he found one quite quickly – one who would see him through the whole suite of tests and trials that he might need to take if one test led to another. He went for his tests. He’s been to the doctor. The diagnosis is still up in the air.

With the ponderousness of our mammoth health care system, answers do not come quickly. All we know is that the tests have been done, but Whistler is now waiting for a specialist appointment and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

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