Their doctors are polite, too

Last Thursday, I had the most frightening experience I’ve had since arriving, and it wasn’t a Leafs game (that was Saturday, duh). I spent seven hours in the emergency room of a Canadian hospital.

I mentioned in an earlier column that I have a history of vasovagal faints — my blood pressure drops randomly, and I faint. Save for taking a large amount of salt, there’s nothing I can really do to stop them. And unless I hit my head on the way down, there’s nothing that’s horribly wrong with me.

Unfortunately, I had fainted twice in an hour, which even for me is pretty bad. So, in the middle of the cosmetics aisle in Conestoga Mall’s Target, I was strapped to a gurney and wheeled to a waiting ambulance.

Unfortunately, while going to the emergency room isn’t a foreign concept for me, I was in another country without my family. Luckily I had my amazing friend Rebecka by my side, who stayed with me the entirety of my visit.

As I was being loaded in, the first thing to cross my mind was <em>insurance. </em>I voiced my concerns to the paramedic who was with me, who reminded me of universal healthcare; I could worry about my insurance later. Even though I&rsquo;m covered by travel insurance, I still freaked out. Little did I know, Rebecka was telling the paramedic up front about how I was covered by the University Health Insurance Plan. My guardian angel.

I don&rsquo;t think words can really convey how frightened I was in the emergency room. When I&rsquo;m scared, I either burst into tears or resort to meaningless fluff humour. I ended up going with the latter. A selfie was posted on Facebook of me in a stunning hospital gown. I&rsquo;m still not sure what part of me thought that would be a good idea.

Thankfully, I managed to get in contact with my mother. The hospital had free wi-fi, and while I was having tests, I dictated to Rebecka what messages to send my mum, my dad, and my girlfriend.

Being able to talk to my mum over Skype made me feel better within an instant. I was able to think clearer about what I had to do and how to answer the nurse&rsquo;s questions better &mdash; I got the sense they were getting rather impatient with me.

I apologized for my confusion at first, for both being an obnoxious international student and for my inability to answer all of their questions. The nurse replied to me, <em>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s okay. At least you speak English perfectly!&rdquo; </em>

Looking back on that night, I think about how much more horrible my experience would have been if I didn&rsquo;t speak English, and I&rsquo;m sure it has happened to quite a few people. Of course, there would have been translators available and I&rsquo;m sure a mutual understanding could eventually be reached. While that takes care of the practicalities, it doesn&rsquo;t work for how frightened and bewildered a non-English speaking student must feel in that situation.

When it comes down to it, the night could have been much, much worse than it was. Universal healthcare, free wi-fi, speaking English, and having a fantastic friend there with me made a bleak situation much easier to handle. And I&rsquo;m thankful for it.