The Tyee has published a three-part series by writer/composer John MacLachlan Grey about his experiences in the Canadian healthcare system, ranging from a colonscopy to a brush with a superbug. Here's an excerpt from the first part, A Certain Urgency:
I recently acquired a new family doctor. Dr. M. is in her thirties, a former anaesthetist who took a less edgy position in order to raise three young children. She made me nervous: blood pressure easily up 20 systolic.
First, Dr. M took an inventory of ''pre-existent conditions,'' the ones that keep people from collecting on private insurance. Our next order of business was a general check-up, which Medicare pays for biannually. Out came the stethoscope, the blood pressure machine and a bit of poking, but mostly it concerned what the lab thought of my blood -- which came off rather well, swishing through open arteries, unhindered by plaque.
Only one test produced a question mark. It resulted in my first colonoscopy.
The current thinking in intestinal circles is that things called polyps are precursors to bowel cancer; that if you eliminate the little rascals, you can head off something very nasty.
Fine with me. Friends underwent the procedure, which sounded like vicarious spelunking. You're given something nice through a needle, then you get to watch a screen while a mini-camera prowls your intestine. If they find a polyp (sounds like a sea-creature), they ''snip it off.''
And so we enter the land of Dr. G, a gastroenterologist -- a neat, affable man who would look good in a bow tie, like a Harvard attorney.
A fortnight later I am not so well dressed. Dr. G has me on a long table in the foetal position, staring at a video screen, wearing a backless blue gown and thigh-length socks like a Shakespearian faerie while a nurse with an East European accent and a depressing resemblance to Uma Thurman assists Dr. G in shoving a camera on the end of a tube up where the sun never shines.
They gave me something pleasant enough that I would not be allowed to drive home, which lent a gauze of unreality to the monitor as the camera navigated a pink tunnel, like a worm hole from the Dune trilogy, twisting and turning this way and that -- and then paused before a dark red lump. (The word ''carbuncle'' came to mind. I had never actually seen a carbuncle, but read about them in Dickens novels, where they appeared on the noses of elderly drunkards.)
''My goodness, would you look at that,'' said Dr. G, and I knew this wasn't leading anywhere I wanted to go.