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Letter: Canada’s crumbling health-care has turned me into another number

'The cost of free health-care in this country indeed comes with a price'

Canada‘s health-care has crumbled under my feet, because I have lost the ability to read. It’s an extraordinary thing for a writer to endure because words, especially in their written form, are the entire essence of my being.

I was diagnosed with one of the rarest forms of epilepsy, even rarer still for a woman of my age. But it was not here in Canada where I learned of this diagnosis or received the therapy I desperately needed.

I was told the epilepsy clinic at Vancouver General Hospital has a current wait time of two years. Being diagnosed with reading epilepsy doesn’t give me an extra edge in the chaos of its wait times.

So must I wait two years without reading?

Suspecting the illness myself, and after months of debilitating neurological symptoms, I travelled all the way to Italy to see a group of specialists at a renowned epilepsy centre in Pavia.

It is said that about one per cent of the general population lives with epilepsy, so by my figures, in a population of 5 million British Columbians, that’s about 50,000 people living with the disorder. I’m now just another number.

My story is a familiar one. Canada‘s health-care is excellent for medical emergencies, but we do a poor job at what is deemed in this country as “non-urgent.” Canadians wait many, many months to see a specialist, if they are lucky to have a GP refer them to one. They wait even longer for non-urgent or elective surgeries.

Thanks to the mixed public-private health-care in Italy, I was able to see a specialist within less than a week. The cost of the visit? About the same cost of a 90-minute massage in Whistler.

The cost of free health-care in this country indeed comes with a price. We pay for it with our lives; we pay for it with our time—paid out fully in months and years. We pay for it with our suffering, with our anxieties—with our inability to function fully in society.

Thankfully, I have a second life in Italy and can return there anytime for medical care. But the vast majority of Canadians do not have this choice.

Farha Guerrero // Whistler