My son’s name is Gabriel. He’s 16 years old and he’s awesome. He’s also on the Autism Spectrum, minimally verbal, and has sensory processing issues, with a side order of anxiety and OCD. For the last 18 months he’s lived with increasing discomfort from ingrowing toenails. They bleed. He hobbles. This morning my minimally verbal child who has an unusually high tolerance for pain limped out of his bedroom and said, “PT.” I asked, “What does PT mean?” “Poor toes.”
18 months ago it started with a flap of what our doctor called “proud flesh” over his left big toe. “It’s very common in teenage boys when their feet grow quickly. Just soak it, try to push it back so the nail doesn’t dig in,” she said. The problem got worse and spread to his right foot before we realized why it wasn’t healing: Gabriel obsessively picks at his toenails so they never have the chance to grow out, clear of the nail bed, and heal. We had hoped to avoid invasive medical intervention: a procedure normally done in a podiatrist’s office with local anesthetic would, for Gabriel, require general anesthesia and hospitalization. We learned no one in Nanaimo would take it on. A specialist in Victoria is willing to see him. The wait list is eight to ten months long. Assuming he agrees to do the procedure, there will be a further wait for operating room time.
Every night we bandage Gabriel’s toes to cushion them and prevent infection, which has the potential to set in and quickly become blood-borne. That would be bad. It used to be that he’d mention “sore toes” every few days, or after stubbing one of them (a growing teenage boy, he tends to lose track of his body and bumps into things a lot). Now, it’s daily. Every morning he winces when he slides his feet into socks and the legs of his pants. He limps. He asks to go to the hospital. Asks. To. Go. To. The. Hospital. My minimally verbal, autistic son with an unusually high tolerance for pain reaches out, multiple times a day, to tell us that he is suffering. His socks are stained with blood. And I can’t do a damn thing about it.
Oh, Canada. Oh, Universal Health Care. It’s the very foundation of our country. Our taxes and BC Medical Services Plan premiums pay for it. The Vancouver Island Health Authority operates with a budget of $2 billion. And my son bleeds. In pain. And you won’t do a damn thing about it.