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10 Long Hours in Toronto General Emergency

9:16pm. April 9th 2014. I just had some vegetable soup and am trying so hard to focus on keeping my nausea under control. On my table with my laptop I have a mug of hot water with slices of ginger root in it, nausea prevention medicine that was prescribed to me and a bucket just incase I have to go for it. 

How I’m feeling: A little groggy. I passed out and napped from 4:30pm to 7:30pm today. I’m still tired (and admittedly having a tough time with being tired after doing what feels like not much) but happy and grateful that I had enough energy after my nap to have a great walk with my dog, Leia. 

Note: Read “You should go to the emergency room…right now”

After I was kicked out of the Second Cup at University and Adelaide on that evening of March 11th, I headed north on University Street. I was kind of a mess and could feel my tears dripping off of my cape collar down my collar bone and down my silk shirt. I was confused, worried and felt really – floaty. I can’t really describe it but my mind was so fuzzy I don’t even know how I managed to make it up University Street. I walked a little past the entrance of the Toronto General Emergency unit and stopped in front of the beautiful photo of the human heart associated with the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC). I looked up at the gorgeous photo with sheer admiration – as I often do.

PMCC Heart

Every single time I pass by our healthcare district, I take a moment to admire this photo and remind myself how lucky we are to have some of the best of the best healthcare professionals (HCPs) in the country, right here in Toronto. Here I was, about to put my well-being and whatever the hell was going on with me, right in their hands. After about 5 minutes taking deep meditative breaths, I made my way on over to Toronto General Emergency.

As soon as I walked in, I took a look around and noticed that there were a lot of unwell people. I couldn’t help but feel that some may have needed emergency assistance more than I did at the moment. I thought to myself “I was just in Cuba less than a month ago, frolicking around in my bikinis, sun tanning, giggling on the beach, moving to sexy Cuban beats, clearing my head – and just…living” “I was just in dance rehearsal yesterday” “I was able to walk myself on over here, wasn’t I?”

“What the hell am I doing here?!”

I went up to the registration desk and said “I think I’m supposed to be here” and provided them with my health card and the documents my doctor provided me with: my x-ray results, her concerned notes about my x-ray and a note that she spoke to Dr. D. – a Toronto General Thoracics doctor that stated he advised that I be sent to the emergency unit.


After about an hour, my mother arrived. I’m sure she was as confused and concerned as much as I was. Maybe even more. After all, she is my mother. Also, this may have come out of nowhere for her. I, on the other hand had been experiencing first hand – the dry cough, breathing issues and the feeling of a lump in my throat.

I was definitely not prepared for what was ahead. This was my first time checking myself in to an emergency hospital and so the wait time, the process, the environment, etc. – was something I hadn’t had much experience with. I don’t think it’s something most of us choose to want to be experienced with first hand.

We ended up being in emergency from 7:30pm on Tuesday, March 11th to 5:30am on Wednesday, March 12th. My mom was a champ and stayed right by my side the entire time. The couple of loved ones whom I intuitively reached out to also offered to stay with me – but I really didn’t know what was going to happen and what was going on and so I didn’t want to inconvenience people (I know, a silly thought).

10 hours. 10 whole hours of waiting, worrying, falling asleep in my chair while trying to breathe properly, worried about my mom, worrying about poor Leia, thinking about turning to a couple of particular people for comfort (which I decided wouldn’t be a good idea knowing that they would not be able to give me the comfort I needed), attempting to not panic and observing some really unwell people being treated.

And yet all through this. This long, exhausting and stressful night – I was happy with how much got done. Usually when you get tests done, you get ’em done,  you go home, wait to hear results and then book an appointment to consult with an HCP specialist. Typically this takes a few days. On this night, I had blood work, ultrasounds, x-rays, CT scans (and I’m probably forgetting a few more) – and waited a few hours for results or for the staff to track down specialist and surgeons from other units in between so that they could get some information to me and then act right away.

The last person I saw was a doctor from the Thoracics unit. He told me that the tests confirmed that I had a mass located right by my heart, lungs and was also causing pressure against my airway and that he was going to get a hold of Dr. D to see if they felt comfortable releasing me from emergency – and then have me back at a later date.

After about 2 hours, the doctor came back and told me that they were going to release me and that I had an appointment with Dr. D. at 9:00am on Friday (2 days later). Good news, right? I guess so. I had no idea what any of this meant. I didn’t know what a “mass” was, I wasn’t 100% sure what “thoracics” was and I didn’t know the severity of this thing causing pressure against my airway, heart and lungs. I had no idea what to feel. I kind of wasn’t feeling anything.

It was 5:30am. My mother and I took a cab to my place in Liberty Village. The entire ride home, I thought to myself “Poor Leia. If she peed and pooed all over the place, it’s no big deal. She must be so worried and hungry. More so worried about her Mama” As soon as we opened the door, there she was SO excited to see me and there was no mess anywhere! I immediately gave her a big hug and took her for a a quick walk just for her to be able to do her business and then I fed her a meal. I was so happy to see her.

My mother had offered to stay over, but after I had to insist a few times that she didn’t have to, she had arranged with my dad to come and pick her up to bring her home from my place. I was exhausted and decided to head upstairs to bed, as my mother waited for my father to arrive.

The next thing I remember was being awoken by my mom and Leia. I was on the floor at the top of my stairs (luckily at the top of my stairs). I could taste blood from my lip and felt pain on my forehead. I had no idea how I got there. Apparently, my mother heard a loud sound and ran upstairs to find me on the floor. I could hear that my dad was in my home – and so I thought to myself “Maybe I heard the knock/doorbell and tried to make it downstairs to open the door?” “Maybe I’m just really tired?” These are all assumptions. Really, to this day – I have no idea what happened. I don’t remember hearing anything, being alerted to get up, standing up from my bed. Nothing.

Eventually, my mother and father left after making sure I was in bed and hearing from me over and over again “I’m ok. I’m ok” Yup. I was REALLY insistent.

Throughout the night, I was having the same issues I had been experiencing over the past couple of weeks with not being able to sleep – except this time, I had this mass to think about and a biopsy to be worried about. I was coughing like crazy, “woke up” at least 15 times, felt only a little bit of relief the more I stacked more pillows under my head and “woke up” exhausted.

3 replies »

  1. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your thoughts and intimate details in your journey, Carolyn. I aspire to be as strong, resilient, vulnerable and beautiful as you are. My thoughts, love, prayers are with you always! xo

    • Karen, over the past few years I’ve learned that one of the keys to growth and progression is vulnerability. While, the big C has put me in this extremely vulnerable state – I have chosen to be even more vulnerable than I already am by allowing others in to my highs and lows through all of this. It’s been frightening, daunting, risky – and invigorating. Thank you so much for your positive thoughts and prayers. They make such a big difference. I appreciate you.

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