by Barbara Woolsey
Baby Caitlin was born beyond hope, doctors said. The child would quit breathing, turn blue, and shake from lack of oxygen to the brain. She urgently needed to see a neurologist but the process could take up to a year.
According to doctors, she didn’t have a month to live. Caitlin was too sick to even qualify as an emergency case. Her mother, Tina, was told to take the baby home to die.
“I was so scared I was going to lose this little girl that meant the world,” remembered Tina, who asked that her last name not be published. “I was going to fight to the bitter end not to let that happen."
When Tina and her husband heard about a private neurological clinic in Bismarck, North Dakota they immediately left. At the clinic, the couple was given suggestions on how to keep their daughter alive until the right doctors became available in Canada. The young parents paid a dollar minute for the consultation.
“But every penny was worth it,” said Tina.
This month, Caitlin turns 10 years old. She enjoys playing with friends, gymnastics, and reading.
Her parents believe that crossing the border saved her life.
Dr. Greg Marchildon served as executive director of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada in 2001. He said it’s rare for Canadians to travel to the United States for privatized health care.
“There is the belief that the system (in the United States) is better when it’s only better at the very top-tier,” he said. “If you have the money, than you can attempt to get what is more available and accessible than in Canada.”
But only if you have the money, he said.
“Despite the fact that the United States is repeatedly called the best in the world, they clearly are not delivering the goods to the majority. It’s only a minority that can access medical care.”
According to Marchildon, Canada’s public health care system is one of the highest ranking in the world and is better quality than the private system in the U.S.
Despite this, statistics show that Canadians are unsatisfied. According to a 2007 Canadian Medical Association survey, only 33 per cent of Canadians give national health care an ‘A’ grade.
This is because of increasing surgical wait times and a lack of access to physicians and speciality doctors.
For example, there is no specialist in Saskatchewan for Caitlin. Tina and her husband travel to the children’s hospital in Calgary every three months so she can receive medical attention.
“We pay our own gas and our own hotels (when we take her there),” she said. “The financial burden is never-ending.”
Right now, Caitlin takes six different medications a day to prevent her trachea from collapsing. There is a surgerical procedure that could permanently fix this; however it’s not available in Canada.
The surgery is available in the United States.
“People always ask me, ‘if you won the lottery, what would you do?’” Caitlin’s mother said. “And I would go to the U.S. in an instant. Every day life would be improved for us 110 per cent (with this surgery).
“And you can’t put a price on that.”