Tag Archives: Health Sector

Between Life and Death at the Mystical Regatta!

1 Aug

It is the end of July and I am writing this from Sunnybrook Hospital just prior to being discharged. I referred to the waterway and regatta in the earlier summary below and emphasize it again as the context seems to strengthen rather than become more remote. My earlier hospital illusions seem to coexist very nicely with the reality I am now very aware of. Sunny brook is not set on a waterway hosting regattas, but after five admissions in 2015, the concept of being supported and driven positively forward by professional teams and great people in smooth gliding boats/canoes seems so close to the truth – wonderful teams of medical staff, friends, family and so many others who have helped my during this difficult time. My sincere thanks to you all!

During this medical stay I benefitted from a medical procedure that, hopefully, should allow me to return home on a more permanent basis and resume my life and relationships in a more positive way rather than too often from a hospital bed. I look forward to resuming normal communications and catching up with so many kind people who have contacted me but (offline) I have been unable to respond to. Thank you everyone and looking forward to chatting!



Sometimes the moment of truth is not truth at all – at least in the conventional sense. My claim to a 2015 moment of truth was when I died in the corridor of Sunnybrook hospital after being rushed in by ambulance. The moment of truth outcome was determined by superb medical staff that revived me and supported me as I continued to hover between life and death and gradually improved.

Some people asked later what it was like to be technically dead for that short period. I could not respond as I only learned later about what happened. I do not think I saw any white light (as often reported) as I walked from the land of the living to meet my ancestors. I remember nothing except at some point I announced that I could see my mother. That declaration had an eerie effect on my wife and others present, but was not really obscure as my mother often appeared in dreams and these early hospital days in February 2015 (coldest February on record) were dominated by dreams and illusions.

It was a strange experience, particularly at first, hovering between consciousness and the deepest level of sedation and governed by dreams that felt real but were not. The dreams provided, it seems, acceptable explanations about what was happening. They were not reality, but to this day continue to feel real, like an alternative reality that accompanied, protected and strengthened me.

The strangest persistent delusion was about the location of the hospital. It was actually only about 10 minutes from our home, but in my mind it was remote on a waterway that was somehow linked by treaty to Norway and although freezing, still host to water sports at an annual regatta. In an earlier dream flashback, I recalled attending voluntarily on an earlier occasion – an interesting form of authentication. My hospital room (in my mind) was in a towering building overlooking the waterway.

For a considerable time I was not aware that I was in hospital. I generally believed I was located on the waterway mentioned above. The scenarios seemed to start to merge from the time I started to switch from intravenous to solid food. I was introduced to my meal (green, brown and white pureed mounds) by a nurse (real) at one of the outer buildings. I was amazed and believed that this waterway territory must provide free meals to anyone in the region. I asked whether that was true and was only told that I was entitled to free meals. At that point I was not sure how much overlap there was between reality and fantasy, but it all fitted nicely together.

The most disturbing delusion was the link I made between all the medical lines, tubes etc. I was attached to and limitations placed on my movement. In very precise terms the limitations translated into a restricted area of precisely 10 feet square within which I could freely move but not go outside. This was incredibly frustrating as in this alternative reality I could not go where I “needed” to go. Probably why it is not surprising to learn that in those early days, when I was so heavily restricted and medicated, I was fighting constantly and trying to unhook all the attachments and get out of bed.

One aspect I became aware of later was the intense spiritual support that was given to me particularly during the early days. Prayers and blessings and particularly from Christian practitioners and Tibetan Buddhists we have been close to over the years. Whatever the religion, I believe I heard the prayers – another moment of truth – and felt the collective strength steering me. I make no judgment about the relative truth of different religions, but that true caring and messages of love will always be heard. That, at least, is my moment of truth.

Certainly February 2015 was like no other month I had ever experienced. The moment of truth came with extreme consequences (life or death) and thankfully I survived. There are many moments of truth that contributed to the successful outcome. If the ambulance had not been so prompt, revival may not have been possible regardless of the skills of the medical staff. I believe the battle for survival drew on strengths from so many sources, many of which I may never fully understand but will always be thankful.

I cannot thank the staff of Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and St. John’s Cardiac Rehab enough for their support and for dealing so capably with my medical crisis. I thank all those who provided loving and spiritual support. I felt their support and prayers in a very personal and strengthening way.

My personal moments of truth drew on forms of reality (dreams and illusion) that may not have been real but were real, I believe, in mustering all the power available to meet the challenge. Now the weather has improved, I look forward to rejoining life and enjoying normal activities that I took for granted for many years. My moment of truth is the opportunity for a fresh beginning and probably greater appreciation than ever before.

Thank you everyone for helping me face my moment of truth and for supporting my confidence in our international caring society. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.




Perchance to Dream! What Does it Mean?

4 Jun

Well, I spent Tuesday night at one of the Toronto Sleep Clinics (Bathurst and Dundas), hooked up to extensive sleep measuring equipment and today, maybe as a result, feel sufficiently motivated to write another post about my medical experiences this year. The referral to the Toronto Sleep Clinic was made when I was discharged by Sunnybrook, as my sleeping habits were not considered particularly healthy. My sleep pattern, for as long as I remember, was to sleep little overnight, frequently work into the night and then early in the morning and during the day possibly have episodes of tiredness. 

I knew nothing about sleep studies until this current experience and was amazed to read that so much information is gathered from an overnight stay that it forms the basis of an 800 page data report that takes four to five weeks to analyze. I can hardly wait for the results!

I had to complete questionnaires before and after my period of recorded sleep and there was a strong link between stress/concerns of the participant and sleep. Questionnaires are interesting. I have completed many and usually face the same dilemma. If there are, for example, one hundred questions/statements to be rated on a scale of 1 to 5, I may be interested in or have strong feelings about one or two, but have little interest in most and rate them all the same – usually positive as that seems a reasonable default if I feel nothing negative.

I have to say that my overnight stay at the sleep clinic was very comfortable with my own room and very attentive and friendly staff to help and encourage. They were able to rationalize the concept of recording the sleep pattern of people with difficulty sleeping, over an 8 hour period, and what I thought would be very difficult – remaining in bed until 7.00 a.m. – was not a problem. I recorded waking up about eight times during the night, but they were just interludes between quiet times and a few nice dreams.

I had to feel comfortable about my every move being watched, listened to, and recorded, and the absence of any privacy, but my other hospital stays in 2015 had prepared me for that. The watchfulness of the staff was particularly demonstrated when after a series of pleasant dreams I sat up to think about them and almost immediately a nurse came in to make sure everything was o.k. 

I recorded in earlier posts how my dreams at the hospital were about alternative reality, changing the situation in quite a nice way. At the sleep clinic, my dreams were more standard (for me) including travel (London, Montreal), collectibles and friendly encounters. The collectibles I dreamt about in this case were medals that somehow connected to a church exhibition (same dream sequence) I attended. Probably I consider dreams about collectibles (not a precise category) as among the most interesting. I may be browsing through old books or photos and find interleaved notes (or other “treasures”), or find an old guitar, or even selections of true collectibles including coins, stamps, books, comics and various antiques. I think my interest is primarily the uniqueness of the dream items and what they represent rather than their value. With an old guitar, I can play it and often better then in “real life” – a real bonus!

In this post, I cannot offer any advice or insight into the sleep assessment process. I received no feedback following the session which is probably not surprising if, as previously mentioned, they first have to review 800 pages of data about me. However, the objectives are important and can be very helpful and the experience is quite pleasant. I look forward to receiving the results of my assessment and the only advice I will give to people considering such a study is not to drink too much in advance as being unhooked from masses of wires and electrodes to be able to go to the washroom (each occasion and then to be re-hooked) can be daunting!

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.


Leadership Insights from my Hospital Bed

1 May

After spending many years in a leadership role within business and specifically Human Resources it is such a role reversal to become a hospital patient and totally dependent on the skills, leadership and caring of medical staff. In industry I was a leader based on my function and because I made and recommended decisions and provided leadership and direction to staff. In hospital I was a dependent client trusting the competence of those I relied on to handle my medical problems.  In my vulnerable position I had to trust professional staff to set me in the right direction and instruct me in what has to be done to cure, to the extent possible, my medical condition.

The comparison between dependent staff and management in an industrial setting is not in all respects the same, but being confined in a hospital for a few weeks, considering relationship similarities and contrasts was an interesting diversion.

One aspect which relates to developing employee engagement, is considering the degree to which understanding the business is likely to motivate employees. In industry the following are a few observations:

  • Employees appreciate being updated on company progress, plans etc., but are not always very interested, particularly when the information is remote from their own understanding and direct function.   Employees may appreciate the social function associated with company updates (e.g. general meeting and reception with senior management) more than the information received
  • Employees respond more positively when management feedback is from management directly involved in their function and seen as able to influence progress of an individual. Conversely, if feedback is negative (dissatisfaction with the work team) it is unlikely to motivate improved performance in most cases

As a hospital patient, what motivated my confidence and engagement with medical and hospital staff? In a survey I recently completed about my hospital stay, one key question seemed to be whether Doctors and Nurses spoke about patients in front of them as though they were not present. This suggests that although equally unacceptable in industry, it is probably more common in hospital where there is a greater knowledge and role distinction between patients and medical staff. I do not consider myself particularly well informed on medical matters and in general was interested in information directly related to my condition rather than too technical, theoretical or generic. For example:

  • “Performance” improvement, for example how well responding to medication and test results of significance
  • Treatment plans and options. This was particularly interesting when addressed by the senior medical team (on their daily rounds) when there may be questions or comments from various people present

From a patient perspective I was also very interested in observing the professional relationship between senior medical staff and nursing and support staff. From my bed, there was not too much else to watch and I was consistently impressed by the professional and respectful relationship that seemed to exist between all staff and seemed to extend also to patients.

My comments relate specifically to the two occasions in 2015 I have been a patient at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada. I was impressed in every way by the promptness and excellence of treatment received and the courtesy and respect extended in every way including their very liberal visitor policy.

Thank you very much for your interest. Do you believe that the Health Sector operates consistent with industry and following similar principles? I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.


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