International view on IBD
CANADIAN-born Scott Waterhouse shares his experiences about living with a chronic illness in another country.
MY story with Crohn’s disease began in Toronto, Canada, way back in 1989 and could probably cover about 10 pages of this magazine. But I thought I would give other members some of insight into the support I received in Canada.
I have had a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows with Crohn’s disease, and have had six surgeries in total from 1997 to 2002, including permanent ileostomy surgery. I am healthy now and it’s my current state of well-being that allowed me to travel and move to Australia in 2006.
The Ontario health system is similar to the Medicare system here in Australia in that it provides basic medical coverage for everyone, including coverage for doctors’ visits and hospital admissions. However, it was through my job that I realised the advantages provided for people with a chronic illness. My first real job after university was with a council near Toronto and the employer provided – at no cost to me – medical insurance that covered all costs for medications, ostomy supplies, and a few other things that Medicare seems to miss. There were no waiting periods or exclusions. And all the hospitals in Ontario are public hospitals, so I was able to get the best treatments available without any hassle. It gave me peace of mind knowing that a combination of the health system and my medical insurance would mean that I did not have to hand over all of my money for treatments if I ever did get sick!
While I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, it was at Mt. Sinai Hospital where I had my surgeries and treatments and received some of the best care. Mt. Sinai is a leading Canadian hospital in IBD treatment and research. They have an entire section of the hospital dedicated to IBD and Crohn’s patients, whether they are there for surgery, treatment or recovery. This means that the doctors, nurses and support staff in that part of the hospital only deal with IBD patients. In my view, this makes a huge difference in the support the patients receive, and I know I felt more comfortable and at ease in what can sometimes be a terrifying hospital setting. I found this to be especially true when I was at my lowest points physically and emotionally.
For anyone with a chronic illness, knowing that you have access to the best health care in the world means a great deal, especially when that illness can have as many ups and downs as Crohn’s disease can. And knowing that it is affordable as well provides a lot of comfort.
Important to my wellbeing after I was released from hospital after my surgeries, was the peer-led Crohn’s Patient Support Network. The support group was established by people with Crohn’s disease with the support of the hospital staff, including social workers and doctors. They meet every month at the hospital and allow people to share stories and gain strength from others with the same illness. It has provided a lot of support for me and for many others as well, in what I would describe as a sort of family environment.
It is this family environment of those support groups that I have tried to carry over here. With the assistance of CCA, I have just started a support group in Pascoe Vale for people with Crohn’s Disease and Colitis and their families. We had our first meeting on 15 October, which was well attended and I think helped all those who attended. We will continue to meet from 7.30pm on the third Thursday of every month at the Pascoe Vale Neighbourhood Facility, 10 Prospect St, Pascoe Vale. All are welcome to attend. Drop me an e-mail at [email protected] for details.