LL Encounters The Canadian Healthcare System


“Let’s do the weekend plans simultaneously,” says The Scientist. “You book tickets for the waterslide park for tomorrow online while I call the mountain for the Sunday morning rock-climbing trip.” “Sure,” I say, flipping open my laptop. But before The Scientist can dial out, the phone rings. I hear one word: “Ambulance.”

To date, each of the kids has been in the hospital for his own birth and for each birth that came after his, if any, with one exception. Cool J was rushed–in The Scientist’s arms–to the ER after falling out of the attic and then showing signs of head trauma 2 years ago (the kids love to reminisce about it — they both remember exactly what scene they were up to in Star Wars 2/Attack of the Clones when The Scientist came home to see how Cool J was, and Cool J, not a puker, sat up and projectile puked all over The Scientist).

Today it was LL’s turn. He had been playing Capture the Flag at camp when he coincided with one of his opponents. How that head-to-head crash turned into a giant open wound on LL’s forehead I don’t understand. But it was obvious that he was going to need stitches. So for the second time in our parenting lives, we rushed to the ER.

We rushed — and then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And. And. And.

At one point the nurse approached us, though it turned out she wasn’t looking for us, but for the Agudah kid also sitting in the waiting room. I guess all we Jews look alike.


Cool J, LL, and the kid who was apparently interchangeable with LL

After 6 hours, we complained. We accused the hospital administrators of favoring the Francophones over us. We said that people who came up with similar or lower triage scores were being taken to the doctors first. We said they hated us because we spoke English, because we came from the US, because we didn’t have medicare cards, because we were noisy. They were unfazed. “Please sit down,” they said. “The doctor will be with you shortly.” Sometimes they said it in French, and sometimes in English.

Another hour went by.

When they took us into a room and put LL onto a bed, we thought our waiting was over.

Then we waited.

Not that we didn’t keep busy at all. We did dance competitions that LL judged:

Cool J performing the winning dance. LL awarded him with the "Stanley Cup of dance competitions."

Cool J performing the winning dance. LL awarded him with the “Stanley Cup of dance competitions.”

We swiveled in the swivelly chairs. We lowered and raised LL’s bed to give him a ride. We looked on the charts to see which doctors had big hands and which had little hands based on their glove sizes.

And finally, the doctor came.

LL didn’t mince his words. Before the doctor could finish his introduction, LL cut in. “Why did we wait for 8 hours?” he asked.

The doctor, who could see on LL’s chart that the boy was coming from the US, used the opportunity to give LL a thorough response. “In the United States,” he said, “You would see the doctor much faster. Much faster! You would see him and go home. That would be great, right? But it would only be great if you had money. You see, if you didn’t have money –lots of it to give to the insurance companies or the doctors who charge much more there– you wouldn’t be waiting because you would never get the treatment. Do you know why? Because that’s how they do things in America. If you’re rich, you can have everything, but if you’re not, you can go home with a hole in your head. Here in Canada, on the other hand, we don’t ask how much money you have. We treat everyone.”

LL: “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Am I getting stitches or what??”

He did:



And the doctor, who was very nice, and explained everything in careful detail to the kids, did a great job of it.

By the time we got home, LL was in high spirits, his hours of waiting behind him. He was excited to tell his story. Canadian system, American system, whatever.

We called my mom. “Gramma–Guess what? I got stitches!” Before she could recover from her heart attack, he continued: “So isn’t that good, because now I can be in the NHL because now I know what it’s like to get stitches. I got my practice and now I’m ready! I’m so happy! Bye, Gramma!” All’s well that ends well.


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