THE BLOG

How Digital Health Saved Me From Surgery on Vacation

01/22/2014 03:56 EST | Updated 03/24/2014 05:59 EDT

Like many Canadians, I am a cancer survivor. I spent three years receiving cancer treatment and surgeries that ultimately led to a clear bill of health. It was a long journey, but I made it.

In February 2011, my sister Shryl and I were looking forward to a different type of journey. We were en route to vacation in Baja, Mexico, for a fun celebration of the end of my cancer ordeal. The fun didn't last long. I suddenly developed abdominal pain so severe, the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing.

We had planned our vacation as a celebration of the clear bill of health I had been given after three years of cancer treatment and surgeries.

When we landed, a military crew was waiting for me. After they carried me off the plane, accompanied by my sister, I was assessed by paramedics before being rushed to a medical military clinic.

Finally, I received painkillers intravenously. It allowed me to focus on the seriousness of my problem. I was in Mexico. My crash course in Spanish did not include medical emergency phrases. And my sister was missing in action. Doctors gave me a preliminary diagnosis of an abdominal blockage and/or rupture. They also feared a recurrence of cancer and recommended emergency surgery.

At this point, I provided the clinicians with my dog-eared paper with a brief medical summary, as well as online access to my medical info.

The care team in Mexico was able to read first-hand about my medical history, treatments and surgeries. It gave them a better understanding of the potential complications they were facing.

Back home in Thornhill, Ont. my husband contacted my doctor at Sunnybrook Hospital and very shortly afterwards, we received a very succinct list of instructions that did not involve surgery. While most of my week in Mexico was spent in hospital, I was grateful that clinicians there were able to access my medical history.

In the end, my story comes with a happy ending, and I can't help but wonder what the outcome might be for someone in a similar situation whose medical information is not saved digitally. That's why I decided to be part of the Better Health Together campaign, to showcase how digital health is improving care for Canadians.

Not only was unnecessary surgery avoided, I had the chance to enjoy a half day on the boardwalk by the Sea of Cortez, thanks to the medical teams in Mexico and Canada, and my special travel companion -- digital health.

MORE:Living