Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Babies and where to have 'em_Part Two

This blog updated and expanded Friday, September 4, 2009

She's here. A beautiful baby girl. Such a joy. Such a wonder. A miracle. And no small miracle at that, despite her diminutive size: 19-inches, six and a half pounds.

It is almost midnight but we got home around five. It has been family, food, talk and wine every since. Well, maybe wine, family, food and talk to be more accurate.

If you read yesterday's blog, my wife and I arrived at the hospital around eight thirty this morning. It is an old hospital with some wings dating back to the early years of the last century and some sections may be even older. There are recent additions and some not so recent additions but the overall look on arrival is one of a vibrant, aging well, facility. I dropped off my wife and went to park our car.

The parking garage is just across the street and after parking the car I hiked down the five flights of stairs. I had heart surgery some years ago and so I like to do everything to squeeze a little exercise out of life. No elevators for me.

The birthing suite was on the third floor of the hospital and I again took the stairs. The balusters, handrails, etc. were wood with the finish chipped and worn from decades of use. "Ancient," I thought.

On reaching the third floor, I had a long corridor stretching out in both directions. I thought the birthing rooms were in the east end of the building and turned left. I noticed lots of stored stuff lining the walls. When I walked past a row of portable cribs for newborns, I knew I was getting close. The hospital had been built before a lot of this stuff lining the walls had been invented, or even imagined, and I thought that storage space must be at a premium in such a building. (Also, there is a lot of construction going on and the congestion in the halls could well be partially a result of the construction.)

I came to an intersection of corridors and I was lost. The information and sign-in office was empty. A sign next to a wall phone said to call for assistance. A very pregnant woman entered the office, picked up the phone and called. Watching this I felt that the hospital might be a little understaffed but within moments a woman appeared to assist the caller.

I felt a tap on my shoulder, it was my son-in-law. He guided me to the birthing room wing, which was down two of halls and through a couple of sets of fire doors.

Entering our daughter's room I heard a heart beat — a loud, strong heart beat. It was the heart beat of my still unborn granddaughter. A sensor on her tummy was both recording and broadcasting the unborn infant's heart beat.

At first the sound was loud and clear and then it weakened. I must have looked panicked as my son-in-law stepped over and explained that the sensor was on his wife's belly and so, as the infant moved, the strength of the signal changed.

My wife was already in the room. She took the elevator. It was more direct and there were signs pointing the way. The world is designed for wusses. I'll teach my granddaughter to be an adventurer, a risk taker, an urban explorer and take stairs.

Beside the bed sat my daughter's nurse. Her nurse? Yes, expectant mothers are assigned their own nurse upon arrival. This woman would stay with my daughter throughout the day. She would monitor both mom's progress and the progress of the baby. There was some high tech equipment beside the bed and the nurse was checking a printout.

The monitoring equipment was connected to the main nursing station and the nurses on duty were also monitoring our daughter and soon-to-be-born child.

By 9:00 a.m. our daughter had dilated to 5 cm (about 2-inches). I believe the goal was 10 cm. The nurse told our daughter the first five is the difficult five. Our daughter smiled, leaned back and with a casual wave of her hand replied, "It was nothing."

Well, the first five may be the hardest but the last five were the longest. she was not dilated to a full 10 cm until early afternoon. And then, as they say, the hard part began. I wasn't there. My wife was there; her husband was there; and an increasing number of nurses and doctors were there.

By the time my granddaughter was born, there were five nurses in the room and two doctors. Both mom and child were being checked and both were looking good!

Later, sometime after the excitement had subsided, Dr. John Stoffman stopped by the room. Stoffman was the pediatrician conducting rounds at the hospital that day. Coincidentally he was the pediatrician who cared for both our daughters when they were both young. He remembered our daughter as having been once his patient and he will be the doctor doing the follow-up on our granddaughter. We all hope he will be able to be our granddaughter's doctor.

Little Fiona already has an OHIP (Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan) number. Someone has to pay Dr. Stoffman.

Do all births go so smoothly. No, of course not. Stories like this are interesting but they are not the whole story. Good stories and bad stories are always there to be found. More important are the overall figures.

Let's look at the CIA World Factbook and deaths/1000 live births: Singapore 2.31, Bermuda 2.46, Sweden 2.75 . . . Canada was in about 36th place with 5.04. The much maligned, at least recently in the United States, health care systems of Great Britain (4.95), France (3.33) and others all sported better numbers than Canada.

And the United States, where did it land on the CIA list? Well, the U.S. came in lower than Canada. The United States rated about 45 with 6.26 infant deaths per 1000 live births. This is one notch worse than Cuba.

Americans are being so badly served, not only by their health care system but by their media. It would be so easy to write "fools like Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs" but they are not fools. Why they don't report with more thoughtful maturity, more journalistic integrity, encouraging more productive discourse, I'll leave up that up to you.

The United States deserves a better health care system. Rating well behind Macau, Andorra, Slovenia and South Korea on the CIA infant mortality rate list is just not acceptable. But, the U.S. also deserves, and desperately needs, a better media. It is impossible to run a successful democracy when so much of the voting populace is being misinformed.



  1. Congrats, Ken!

  2. Congratulation to your whole family! Both you and Judy will make fantastic grandparents, spoiling that baby rotten with bottled-up grandparent love. I wish her all that's beautiful in life, and all the health and happiness in the world. I'm sure Judy will make her a little canvasser, she'll have better luck than us! All my best to the two of you, your daughter, and your beautiful first granddaughter:)


  3. Congratulations , you have a beautiful grand baby Fiona! Thank you for sharing your story to our part of the pond.
    From someone who has somewhat the same health plan and didn't have to worry when giving birth to preemie twin girls! I just wished the whole of the United States have the same.....

  4. Nice blog, but Canada does not have socialized medicine. It has "single payer", which refers to a system of universal government funding of health care. "Socialized medicine" refers to a system where the government both funds and provides the care, owning the hospitals and employing the doctors, as in VA.
    -from Doc Twain