A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

The System Failed My Dad

By Michael Martins

Article published on March 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm
under Opinion, Mississauga News Online
and on page 5 in the March 2, 2011 issue of the Mississauga News

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On Feb. 9, I made my daily call home to my dad to see how he was doing. He was a bus driver for Mississauga Transit before retiring last August at the age of 65. Since then, I talked to him daily to make sure he was okay and to see what he's up to.

The conversation we had that Wednesday wasn't the usual one. He complained he wasn't feeling well, so I urged him to go to the doctor. After visiting a clinic, he ended up at the Brampton Civic Hospital ER. Though he was told everything seemed okay, about eight hours later they diagnosed him with having had a heart attack. He was admitted at that time. My father wasn't seen by a cardiologist until the Friday morning, when they said they were going to do an angiogram to see the extent of the damage and reason for the heart attack.

The results were bad. One artery was 100 per cent blocked, the others were 70 per cent and 80 per cent blocked. The doctor recommended quadruple bypass heart surgery and said dad was a good candidate because he had a very strong heart with minimal to no damage. The doctor also said dad would be operated on at Trillium Health Centre by Feb. 18. Dad was then moved back to his room in the coronary care unit and rarely seen by a cardiologist. He was told they'd tell us his surgery date as soon as they knew. One thing the doctor said was that 10 years ago some people waited three weeks for this surgery.

On the Sunday, dad was moved to the regular cardiology floor. For the next few days not much more information was given until they finally provided a date for the surgery - Feb. 22.

So, 10 years ago he would've waited about three weeks and now he was supposed to wait just under two weeks. Is a two-week wait acceptable for a life-saving surgery in this day and age?

I guess not, because dad died on Feb. 18 after another heart attack. Instead of hoping for his speedy recovery after the planned surgery on Feb. 22, we buried him that day instead.

I lost a lot of faith in our health system, but I'm hoping it can improve. Dad was supposed to have many more years ahead of him. I thought we would wait only a couple of days, maximum, for his surgery - not two weeks. Dad didn't work all his life and pay all his taxes to wait two weeks. This was the first time he ever needed the health system for something like this, and it failed him. His first stay in hospital would be his last.

My dad, Nuno Martins, is survived by his wife, Anabela, and his sons, Nuno Ricardo and Michael.

Michael Martins, who lived in Mississauga for 25 years, now lives in Brampton.

See also User Comments posted on Mississauga News Online.

The following is an excerpt from one of the User Comments:

"Very sad story

I am sorry to hear about your father. I think you need to talk to a cardiologist or cardiac surgeon not involved in your father's care. I would hate to see you go through the rest of your life blaming the system and wondering "what if" he had the surgery. It is possible that the culprit coronary vessel that was acutely blocked by plaque was not one of the occluded vessels that was planned for bypass and your dad may have passed away anyways. The vessels that are shown to be blocked or partially blocked often have what's called "collateral circulation" which are naturally produced vessels that develop around a blockage to help supply blood to the heart. Even in patients who have died after coronary artery bypass grafting surgery, the reason is often plaque that has broken off another vessel that was not grafted. I just think discussing this with someone might help ease your mind a bit."

Posted by macman, March 1, 2011.

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