It’s May 6, 2015, a typical day at Roger’s House, a pediatric hospice on the grounds of CHEO that also offers respite care so parents of ill and disabled children like Campbell can take a break.
What’s unusual is that the simple moment was captured on camera. It’s part of an ambitious CBC-TV series that documents one day in the life of Canada’s health-care system.
The six-part series, Keeping Canada Alive, tells the stories of three dozen people across the country. It’s narrated by Kiefer Sutherland. CBC dispatched 60 camera crews to 10 provinces and one territory, and captured the drama unfolding in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, and homes.
Campbell appears in the second episode, airing Oct. 11. The one-hour show is gripping.
We meet Campbell’s friend Sienna, 15, another respite regular at Roger’s House, whose muscular dystrophy has put her in a wheelchair. Sienna giddily confides to Rattray that she has a boyfriend. “Is he good to you?” says Rattray. “That’s nice.” Later, Sienna whimpers with relief and worry when her mom Louise arrives. Louise is being released from hospital herself that day. She’s battling lung cancer. Sienna gazes up at her mom, both of them crying. “You’re tough!” the teenager says.
At a hospital in Vancouver, the parents of a 25-year-old man enduring what his doctor describes as “dangerous” heart surgery huddle in a hallway. The dad’s face is etched with worry. “You know,” he says softly, as we watch images of blood dripping onto the operating room floor, “Jamie is a very good son. That’s why God always takes care of him.”
In Halifax, 88-year-old Angus arrives at an emergency room, his face bloody after a car accident. He is treated by a kindly doctor who describes his patients as “just lovely” and warns it’s best not to trust any ER doctor who thinks he knows everything about a patient he’s just met.
Angus is OK, although he gets a traffic ticket for running a stop sign. His white-haired wife Mary, walking slowly with a cane, comes to retrieve him. She gently chides her husband: “We better not let you out alone again.” They both laugh.
The snippets of stories are interspersed, so you have to watch to the end to find out what happens to the patients. They’re simple, universal tales, more revealing in many ways than a mountain of statistics on wait times, doctor shortages, and heart transplant lists. But if you want the facts, CBC has provided lots of them, too, on the accompanying website, which also has hours of raw footage, including full surgeries, interviews and commentary.
Keeping Canada Alive
What: Six one-hour shows that offer a snapshot of Canada’s health-care system over one 24-hour period
When: The first episode premieres Sunday, Oct. 4 at 9 p.m.
The Ottawa angle: The episode featuring Roger’s House airs Oct. 11, and another episode on Oct. 25 features an Ottawa woman with cancer undergoing the removal and reconstruction of her remaining breast.
More information: www.cbc.ca/keepingcanadaalive. The website features statistics, commentary, interviews, and a 24-hour stream of raw footage shot during the series, including full surgeries.