After waiting hours in the emergency room with no explanation for his condition, a St. John’s man thanks the virtual clinic for saving his life.
Dylan Harris suffered months of headaches and blackouts, often caused by sneezing or coughing, which could happen anywhere, anytime.
“Simply sneezing or coughing caused a complete blackout. Like, he just disappeared. It happened while I was driving down the highway, I just sneezed, and then I’m driving 100 kilometers an hour down Pitts Memorial Drive,” Harris told CBC News.
“It happened one time and you said, ‘That was pretty weird’… and then within a day or two it happened again.”
A power outage sent Harris and his wife, Dominique, to the emergency room at the Medical Sciences Center in St. John’s. But the throng of patients led to a long wait that resulted in no answers—only uncertainty about what the future would look like.
“My favorite band is [Tragically] Hip. Gord Downey died of terminal brain cancer. It doesn’t matter who you are, that’s where your mind goes. 100 percent. It’s hard not to,” he said.
Shortly after visiting the emergency room, Harris turned to a virtual clinic run by Dr. Todd Young in Springdale. After a series of tests, meetings, and about six to eight weeks, he learned that he had a tumor in his brain with a cystic formation the size of an egg.
“If I hadn’t been diagnosed, I probably would have died driving very soon,” Harris said.
“I just got to meet Young face to face last week and he said the same thing… This could be the end.”
Harris has since undergone successful surgery to remove the tumor and is now recovering.
I think it opens up a whole new path for a lot of people.– Dominic Harris
Young says Harris’s story highlights tensions in the province when it comes to emergency room waiting times.
More than 125,000 people in Newfoundland and Labrador do not have a family doctor, according to the provincial medical association, which is causing more people to go to hospitals for medical care.
“I think there’s a common denominator now in most emergency rooms where patients have to wait a long time,” Young said Thursday.
- The personnel crisis left the medical clinic without work. Virtual emergency help bridge the gap
- St. John’s emergency rooms are overwhelmed and busier than ever, doctor says
“In the story of Dylan sitting in the emergency room at the Medical Sciences Center for an extended period of time with the symptoms he had, he probably didn’t have to wait that long.”
The Harrises say they are grateful they had the opportunity to go virtual.
“The continuity of care and the fact that you can build rapport with your patients, even if it’s done virtually, is amazing. I think it opens up a whole new path for a lot of people,” Dominik said.
It is important that the virtual care service continue to grow in the province, Yang said. While it’s not the same as talking face-to-face with a doctor or nurse practitioner, he says, it can be a valuable tool in places with staffing challenges.
“This is not a replacement for family doctors, this is not a replacement for emergency departments,” he said.
“The virtual option is a good option, but I think a great virtual care via video where we can definitely do better assessments and stuff… adds a more viable, professional and confident option.”