Friday, April 22, 2016


Elmer on discharge day, five days after surgery.
Two weeks ago, our number came up.   As it can anytime and with greater odds as we age, life pivoted in a nanosecond.  My husband suffered a heart attack.  He would need corornary bypass surgery.  In the challenges of the days that have followed, we have been bathed in blessing, so that misfortune has lost its edge and receded into obscurity.  Good fortune has leaped through the adversity.

1.              He lives.  The damage he suffered is not life-altering.  My life has forked,  not exploded.

2.              My husband received prompt and incomparable medical care, both at St. Peter’s, our local hospital, and the cardiac and surgical intensive care units of the Regina General Hospital, where he was expedited by ambulance.  In particular :

·      By the time I arrived an hour after the ambulance, he was already in an angiogram / angioplasty procedure to diagnose the damage, open a blocked artery, and buy some time.

·      Medical staff provided information on a before-you-need-to-know basis.  Aware of the actions being taken and the reasons for them, we felt secure.

·      Dr. Tsang, one of the surgeons, was to go over the surgical procedure—maybe that night, maybe the next morning.  When I confided to Ruth, Elmer’s nurse on admission day, that I wanted to be present for the surgeon’s visit, whether it occurred that day or the next morning, and that I hoped to get home before the Kids from the East arrived, she offered to check with him.  Turns out he was already in the unit, and dropped by for the chat ten minutes later.   Talk about both those professionals going the extra mile.

·      Medical staff took time.  Never once did their body language communicate impatience—no glance at the watch, no brusque movement, no body turned to leave as the last word rushed out.  Feet firmly planted, hands loose, they smiled and answered question after question.  These are people with hectic schedules.  Although the next items on their to-do lists might have been scrolling behind their eyes, their gestures did not betray them.  Dr. Macdonald, the anesthetist, for example, in scrubs complete with surgical cap, stethescope collared around the neck, sat on a stool beside my husband’s bed, feet spread, elbows on the knees, as he explained his role in the procedure.  He had all the time in the world for us.  Dr. Booker, the cardiologist, took a call from St. Peter’s Hospital just before 5:00 a.m.  After surgery, Dr. Korkola found us in the waiting room to talk about how the procedure had gone, and what recovery might look like.

3.              Location, location, location.  Since February, we have been in Calgary, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Arizona.   The attack occurred at home, in Saskatchewan, the home of universal health care. 

4.              Timing is everything.  As I am the official chauffeur for the next four weeks yet, I am happy that we are moving through spring toward summer.   Snowstorms and ugly roads are still likely, but the odds, as they say, are in my favour.

5.              Our children had uninterrupted time together.   Our adult children pressed pause on their lives, and headed to their father’s bedside.  With three days in  hospital rooms and waiting rooms, they had time to share stories, laugh, play games.  We ate together, and we had time together in the evenings before hitting the pillow in exhaustion.  Through that interaction, they supported each other (and me!), and, without even being aware of it, relieved each other’s stress and anxiety.

6.              I’m in the ebb, not the flow, of my own work.  Although I did have to rely on a colleague to pinch-hit a session for me, the contract work that remains is free of deadlines, and can even be done from home, should that still be necessary.

7.              Prayers and positive energy have impact.  We are so grateful for the support from family, friends, and community.  People phoned, texted, emailed, sent cards, traditional and digital, visited in the hospital, and had masses offered.  Our neighbor’s family offered me their guest room for two nights.  People also brought muffins, soup, stew, and goodies, and with the food came life-giving conversations.   I am sure that this groundswell of affection has contributed to Elmer’s impressive recovery.

As we move on in recovery, the balm of these blessings soothes any pain and levels the road ahead.  We are so very grateful.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


The term political correctness has outlived any usefulness it may ever have had, and it’s time for it to be relegated to obsolescence.  It’s not just that society doesn’t need it any more; in my view, the phrase is harmful.  Why might that be?

Language conveys messages, implicit and explicit, intentional and unintentional.  
Society’s understanding of the power of language to enhance or demean has grown alongside its awareness of the effect of longstanding terms on the people they designate.  To reflect that growing consciousness of the power of language, society has chosen different words to reflect common realities.  The expresson political correctness” has been used to designate this paradigm shift in the use of some words.

“Political correctness,” then, has come to mean a change in speech patterns out of respect for people.  Some of these changes have cultural origins.  For example,  First Nations would be the words used today in reference to a person who might have been described as native or Indian ten years ago.  Other expressions have origins in gender equity.  Society now refers to the chair of a meeting (rather than a chairman), to flight attendants, fire fighters, police officers and letter carriers (rather than stewardesses, firemen, policemen, and mailmen).  These words communicate that the occupation includes both women and men.  In yet another context, some turns of phrase emphasize capacity, such as physically challenged or mentally challenged as opposed to handicapped.    Patterns of speech such as these are now commonplace.

Let’s be clear.    Political correctness is not euphemism.  Euphemisms sugar coat or camouflage a negative trait to hide a harsh reality from others.  Saying that someone has “passed away” instead of “died” would be one example of a euphemistic expression, as would calling civilian casualties of war “collateral damage” or pornography “adult entertainment.”   Phrases that might fall under the umbrella of political correctness, on the other hand, reflect a changed awareness in various contexts, especially  culture, gender, and ability.  They are not euphemisms because:
·      they do not seek to mask an unpleasant reality;
·      they are oriented toward capacity;
·      they evoke a positive view;
·      they respond to an expanded understanding of the impact of language on people.

So, if the phrases and expressions that have come to be labelled as political correctness are helpful, why would the term itself need to be eradicated?   There’s a belief among some, I think, that these words have been imposed on society by a nebulous, undefined authority to pander to special interest groups.  A deep-seated resentment seems to be sometimes attached to their use.   Instead, let’s accept that  respect for ourselves and others is the great motivator in changes to expressions that might be deeply rooted in our experience.

That’s why the term “political correctness” needs to fade in to obsolescence, to be replaced with respect.  Anyone whose words reach a wide audience, such as broadcasters, writers, politicians, and teachers, need to stop using “political correctness”.    We change terms that could be offensive because we know that language can affect how individuals perceive themsleves and others.  When we use words that reflect a growing sensitivity for the implicit messages in language, let’s do it not out of correctness, but out of respect for each other and for the inclusive, empowering society in which we live.  Let’s discard the term “political correctness” and speak instead of respect.