Telehealth Ontario is no doubt a fantastic service, but it’s one I hardly ever use. By this point in our relationship, I’ve come to accept that Telehealth and I have different priorities. When I’m wondering how many over-the-counter painkillers I can safely take, it wants to know if I’ve vomited blood or foamed at the month. Pretty annoying, really. Seizures must trigger a flashing red warning signal on the Telehealth desktop, because, probably for liability reasons, I have never received practical advice beyond instructions to get in a cab and check myself in. Indeed, any communication inevitably ends with an emphatic “go to the hospital.”
After not seeking Telehealth counsel for several months, this evening I gave in and dialed the number. Though I harbored the naive hope that things could be different, the nurse and I got off on the wrong foot right from the get-go. Four minutes in, I began to suspect that I was conversing with a gruff older woman whom I often encounter at the grocery store. “So let me get this straight; you lost consciousness and didn’t seek medical attention?” How was I supposed to respond to this openly disapproving inquiry? I’ve always wondered what “tsk tsk” sounds like in real life, and now I know.
It continued. “You need to go to the emergency room.” I politely indicated that the situation didn’t necessitate six fruitless hospital hours. “No, you need to go to the ER,” she insisted. I explained that I’m a pro at the seizure game and had only called to ask how to alleviate my symptoms (information she refused to impart). “ER.” Now frustrated and eager to get back to my Woody Allen documentary, I told her that I’d make my way to Toronto Western. This time her tone was unequivocally critical. “OK, but are you actually going to go?”
Seriously? Since when are medical professionals allowed to be so aggressive? Let’s ignore the fact that my inflated ego allowed me to assume that my Girl Guide First Aid Badge and years of symptom-checking on WebMD rendered me better qualified to make medical decisions than this RN and her extensive post-secondary training. Following a few more one-word commands, our impasse ended when she threatened to send an ambulance and I promised to go to the doctor.
Now I’m half-worried that, despite the compromise I struck with the mean Telehealth nurse, I’ll hear the wail of totally unnecessary sirens scream down the street.