Sometimes you just have to sit back and observe the unfolding events of your life with wonder. The way themes arise, fall away, reoccur. I believe that these observations are touchstones on our path through this lifetime, and like a good map or a well worn path, they can help tell us where we are, and where we are going. Most of the time that is in an unexpected direction, a path we did not know we were even seeking. Its important to notice those themes, to pay very close attention to them, to see what our heart is telling us, or more often, what the universe is trying to tell us. Its a kind of listening to the buried, beating heart of our life line.
So I find it curious that my path of late seems to be intersecting with media. One the surface its about no more than being in the right place at the right time, but listening with the heart tells me its also more. It was only this spring that I blogged, as an aside, about my quiet but burning desire to make documentary films, especially about the north. And while that hasn’t exactly happened as I’d imagined, it is happening. On the Northwest Passage trip this summer I was interviewed for a German documentary film and photographed and interviewed for a travel magazine article. And I’m going to be featured on CBC television in a few weeks as part of a documentary series on health care in Canada, called Keeping Canada Alive.
I was reluctant to participate in the project when I was first approached. I have no interest in ‘scripted reality’ shows, and I also see how the media can manipulate words and stories to feed controversy. But my interactions with the fine folks at Force Four Entertainment in Vancouver soon convinced me that they were a professional organization committed to telling the real story.
The premise for the 6 part series is fantastic – it is 24 hours in the life of health care in Canada. Some 60 film crews went to 24 cities across Canada and filmed what they saw over a 24 hour period. The entire show was filmed during a day in May. Its a great snapshot of our health care system at work. You can see the trailer here.
I’m not at all comfortable in front of a camera – I don’t even like getting my photo taken. But I feel strongly that the stories of northern Canadians, the lives of the incredible people I meet daily in the Yellowknife ER, need to be told. Since moving to the north I’ve meet so many people who’ve had young children die that I’ve lost count. (I can’t think of anyone I’ve met in southern Canada that has lost a small child due to illness – of course it happens there too, but its much more rare.) I’ve heard the saddest stories from suicidal patients – stories of so much pain, and hardship, and aloneness, such heartbreaking losses, that I am pretty sure I would not have survived what these people have survived. I meet homeless people every day, I know them by name, and I am impressed with their toughness and their ability to survive in the harshest of lands. I have first hand experience of knowing the difficulties faced by Inuit patients who live hundreds of miles from a doctor and a hospital.
These stories are not unique to Yellowknife, or the north, but they play a big part in my window on health care here, and I feel that the system could do so much more to support people. Complex issues like suicide, addictions, homelessness and poverty are not health care issues, they are social issues that lead to significantly increased rates of death and illness, and they can’t be solved at the health care level. And I understand that because these issues are complex that they are not easy to solve – indeed, we may not even understand what is needed to solve them. But I think we need to do more for those amongst us that have the greatest needs. We live in a society where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And I am not sure my countrymen really understand that when you are poor, the deck is really stacked against you, and there may not be much you can do to change that. While on the other hand, if you go to medical school, you will have a very good income and a guaranteed job forever. You just have to show up and your star will rise. But really, its only being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time that makes it so. There but for the grace of God go I.
So I said yes, with trepidation. The film crew wanted to start out the filming on Houseboat 28 – a day in the life, so to speak. As it was May, I was anxious that the ice on the lake would be half out and half in, and the crew would have difficulty even getting to the place due to open water. Fortunately the weather cooperated and they only had to walk one plank over the open water at the shore, and then haul their gear on foot out to the houseboat.
I spent a day with the crew – at home and then for a shift at work. It was challenging for me – once I put my head down at work I couldn’t really focus on the film crew, and I suspect that made it harder for them. It was a bit uncomfortable for the rest of the ER crew too, who naturally didn’t really want to be on national television while at work either. (I had a faint, and I recognize unrealistic worry, that I might actually kill someone on national television.) In the end I did not get much of a chance to discuss the issues near and dear to my heart, although I am hoping that the story of one fellow who was filmed in the ER that day will touch on those issues.
The series starts this Sunday, October 4th at 9 pm, and will run over 6 weeks. My 5 minutes of fame will air on October 18th. The entire show will also be available online here, or view the cbc.ca website. h