Marilyn McKinnon woke up one morning last April and couldn’t get out of bed because of pain in her legs.
For months she was unable to walk further than the kitchen, and only able to get telephone appointments with locum doctors.
McKinnon eventually went to the ER at the hospital in Nakusp, something she didn’t do lightly. It wasn’t a real emergency, but she needed to see a doctor in person, right away, she said.
When McKinnon was finally able to convince a doctor to book an MRI, things started moving move quickly – it showed she had severe spinal stenosis.
By the end of September she had an appointment with a neurosurgeon and, by October, she was on the wait list for surgery.
She had her surgery on March 3, in Kelowna.
Over the 11 months she said she talked to 18 different doctors about her symptoms, most of whom were locums passing through the Nakusp clinic.
“I have absolutely no complaints about the care I have received,” she said. “It is the access to care, because of COVID-19 and the total lack of followup, whatsoever, since I have been pursuing this (that is concerning).”
A retired nurse and with an understanding of the system, McKinnon was able to advocate for her care.
“It’s just been a really fight, the whole way,” she said, noting she feels for others who don’t have the knowledge to stand up for themselves, or who are afraid to challenge their doctor.
“I know how the system works, but for the last 11 months the system has failed me, totally failed me.”
McKinnon puts much of the blame on the lack of consistent care due to the fact she no longer has a family doctor in Nakusp. Hers moved away a year and a half ago.
McKinnon is also frustrated with Interior Health’s patient quality control department.
She waited on a stretcher in the pre-surgical unit for seven hours before her first surgical appointment was cancelled, after a day of fasting and not drinking in preparation for the surgery.
McKinnon hoped to give some feedback regarding quality control, but was told only that her concerns would be forwarded to management.
“I have legitimate concerns and suggestions, so why wouldn’t they want to listen to me?” she said.
There was also no follow-up care after the surgery. She had her husband change the bandages and take photos so that McKinnon could check on the incision herself.
McKinnon also expressed concern that no one had asked about her living situation, saying hers was not a surgery one who lives alone could manage by themselves. She couldn’t bend, twist or lift anything larger than five lbs. for six weeks post surgery.
Now, a month later, McKinnon is walking without a walker, relying on hiking poles only and, though she may not be getting in the kayak this summer, she said there is hope she will be back on her skis next season.