Travels With My Brother – Departure From Calgary

Tom walked into the hospital room around 3pm. He was pulling his lightly loaded carry-on suitcase behind him. It was great to see his smiling face.  The preparation for my departure from the hospital moved into higher gear.  By this time Tobi had started her evening shift, and she also moved into action to get me on my way.

As I mentioned before, the original goal was to see how I felt at the time of my discharge and plan what happened next accordingly.  Tom let me know that there was a train (The Canadian) leaving around midnight from Edmonton to Toronto, and that the next train was only on Saturday.  I decided that we should try to get on this train.  There still appeared to be seats available. We were going to try to get a private sleeper cabin for the three day trip.  This reservation would include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in the dining car. That was the tentative plan.

After Tom’s arrival, the first thing I did was to have my first real bath after the crash.   A nurse then arrived to put new dressings on my wounds.  As she was working on the wounds, she told me that there still appeared to be gravel in the crater behind my shoulder where flesh had been lost.  I gave her permission to use as much force as needed to try to get out the dirt.  It did not hurt. After the cleaning and bandaging, we gathered some of the left-over dressings as supplies for the journey.  I got fully dressed.

The doctors had a prescription ready for me for pain medication to take during the travels home, and we needed to get to the pharmacy before closing time to fill it.tempI walked through the hospital for the first time.  Having spent the last few days staring at other hospital buildings from my hospital bed, I had been oblivious to its nice location.  You could see the city out of its windows. It was a revelation. We went down the elevator a few floors, and then from out of the McCaig Tower into the main building. We walked past the cafeteria area, past the signs of people going about their “normal” lives, something that I had not seen for a few days, and finally found the pharmacy.  I submitted the prescription and we then returned to my room to complete the packing and other formalities.

Tobi had finally received the discharge documentation to take with me.  It included electronic copies of the X-rays and CT Scans. I wished my ex-roommate goodbye and good luck with his daughter’s wedding, wished Tobi well, and then walked out of the trauma center with Tom for the last time.

I was able to move along at a decent speed to get to places.  I was feeling good. Tom was helping with my luggage. We made it to the pharmacy before it closed with 3 minutes to spare.

We had a plan of action that required precise timing in its execution for us to be able to successfully catch the train from  Edmonton to Toronto that night.  Part on the plan depended on our ability to get automobile transportation promptly when needed.  Fortunately, Tom had the Uber application on his smartphone to summon car rides, and the system worked exactly the way it was supposed to.  Another element of the plan was the ability to take action to book reservations while traveling by bus.  The bus was supposed to have wi-fi.

Within a few minutes of picking up the prescription, we were out the front door of the hospital.  Our only chance of catching the train was to get on the 6:30pm Red Arrow bus to Edmonton and it was already past 6pm.  Would we make it?  Tom came up with the idea of intercepting the bus on its way north at Red Arrow’s Calgary North ticket office, where the bus was supposed to depart from at 6:45pm.  We made it there with 15 minutes to spare, and they did also have seats on the bus available for us.tempGreat – so far, so good!

They did also have snacks and water on the bus.  There was no time for a proper dinner.

Once on the bus, we connected to its wi-fi system and got on the Via Rail website in order to buy the tickets for our onward journey.  Fortunately there were tickets available. Our effort to buy the tickets online was however foiled by an irritating software bug that required that we enter some sort of discount code that did not exist!  Ughhhh, software!!! Tom had to call Via Rail directly, and after overcoming a credit card glitch, we managed to reserve places on the Canadian that night.  The boarding passes were issued electronically, and Tom had to send mine to me via email.tempWe were all set, and there was nothing more to do on the bus until we got to Edmonton, which would happen after 10pm.

I felt a little out-of-sorts without my camera, which I had asked Bob to take it home after the crash. I did not think that the camera on the smartphone was any good, but I had no choice but to start experimenting with it.  The sun was setting  as we rolled north.IMG_20170802_211721461We arrived in downtown Edmonton as scheduled, and immediately caught an Uber to the Via Rail train station.  The station was located further away from downtown and closer to the outskirts of the city than I expected.  We arrived at a building that had signs for both Via Rail train and Greyhound bus services.

The waiting room was packed with people in spite of the late hour.    There were all kinds of people waiting to travel, young and old, and families with kids, couples, and single people.  Children ran around in spite of the late hour.  A sort of dull chaos prevailed. Most folks were slumped in seats or wherever else they could find some space, trying to get some rest.   People were tired.  It felt a bit dreary.

At that point, we had been on the move for a long time. I was still feeling OK, even though the body was somewhat stiff. We found a place to park ourselves and our luggage. Our train was supposed to arrive at 11pm and depart at 11:55pm.  The only announcements we were hearing were for the departure of Greyhound buses,  There were vending machines in front of us with food and drinks, but it all looked unappetizing.  11pm came and went without any sign of the train.

The next episode of this saga here.

Delivery to Foothills Medical Center in Calgary

The paramedics arrived a short while after my fall, after a call was made to 911.  They loaded me gently into the ambulance and prepared to ship me to the Mineral Springs Hospital in Banff for further examination.

I parted ways with most of the folks who had been my biking companions for the last six days at this point.  I clearly remember Sally making an extra effort to say a face-to-face goodbye.  (Apologies to the others if I missed their efforts.) Not sure how I responded.  The others had also decided that they would not continue with the rest of the ride.  Ben took them to a place where they could change for their journeys home that evening.   I  had been scheduled to fly home with Bob and KP very late that same night on the same flight as them.  They were trying to figure out how to help me out.  KP rode with me in the ambulance to the hospital.

There was a lot of waiting involved in the hospital in Banff.  I remember chatting with Bob while on a gurney in a corridor as he stood by my side.  By this time, since the ride was over, I was resigned to whatever was going to happen to me as a part of the process of possible recovery.  Bob told me that I was in such a confused state of mind after the accident that for a while I had insisted on continuing with the ride.

The X-rays and other tests revealed that I had broken a bunch of ribs.  Nothing else major seemed to be broken.  My spine seemed to be intact.  But they were not sure if I had a pneumothorax (collapsed lung).  All the damage was on the left side on which I had fallen. I also had a ghastly amount of road rash on the left hand, but strangely enough, I did not feel pain from the ugly looking bruises.  The fact that flesh had been gouged out of my side and shoulder by gravel did not seem to make a difference.  And my ribs did not hurt that much as long as I was lying down.  I suspect they may also have had me shot up with painkillers at that point.

Because of the ambiguity of the tests regarding the collapsed lung, and the absence of an operating CT Scan machine in Banff over the weekend to further clarify the findings, they decided to get me to the regional trauma center at Foothills Medical Center in Calgary. This trauma center served all of the province of Alberta and had a reputation as a top-notch facility.

I was carted off to an ambulance once again, to be shipped off to Calgary.  Bob and KP had come up with a plan.  Both were coming to the hospital, but KP was also going to delay his departure from Calgary in order to stay with me for a few more days.  He did this despite the fact that he had other travel constraints and family considerations to deal with.  Some people are too good.

KP rode in the front of the ambulance with me.  He wrote this to include in my blog.
Since you were not able, I felt I had to take some notes for your blog. Here are some things from the last couple of hours:

The first EMT Andrew said he was a champion cyclist himself who held local records. He was thinking of going Pro but that was when everyone was doping. He decided not to. 

Your ambulance driver was Leanne. She is normally a EMT for the air ambulance in the Northwest Territories and Kunuvit. They fly out to small communities of 100 to 2000 people. She works there for 4 weeks, on call 24 hours, then comes to Calgary for 4 weeks. Her partner is a pilot for Weather. 

There was an airshow by the Snowflowers as we were driving. They had 7 planes doing 2 loops while we watched.

As I waited in the hospital waiting area, they brought in a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit. He had a chain around his waist and his wrists were chained to his waist. He also had another chain limiting his stride.

Some of the conversations in the ambulance must have drifted back my way occasionally,  but I do not remember them.  I do remember the paramedic talking to me and giving me updates every once in a while.

Things went slowly at the Foothills Medical Center that evening.  They eventually did have the CT Scan of the whole body done.  The investigation was more thorough than in Banff.  There was confirmation about the five broken ribs and the pneumothorax.  They confirmed that there were no other broken bones (but they actually did end up missing  one relatively minor one).  The doctor in the emergency room thought I needed a chest tube to help get rid of the pnuemothorax (which is really air in the sac around the lung), but the doctor from the trauma center later arrived and told me that my case was not serious enough to warrant this kind of intervention.  Although I was prepared to go through any required procedure at that point, I later realized that it was a good thing I did not have to go through this particular one.

One of the consequences of the diagnosis of a pnuemothorax was that I would not be able to fly anywhere for a few weeks.

At some point during the evening, Bob departed from the hospital to catch his flight home.

I ended up in the McCaig Tower of the hospital, in Unit 44 for surgery/trauma. I was in a room on a high floor with three other patients, next to the nurses area.  KP spent some time with me before he departed to the hotel room he had found nearby.  Some time later I was moved to a room at the end of the hall, and to a bed next to a nice big window.  There was another patient with me in the room.  It was a quiet location.  The bed was extremely comfortable.

It was already a new day by the time I was officially admitted to the hospital.  I was still wearing the biking shorts I had fallen in when I fell asleep under the warmed blankets.

Meanwhile, there was already some planning underway at home to try to rescue me from Calgary.

Next post in this series here.