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.