In the ER and Far from Home

David Johnston was in Canmore for a bike race in June 2016 when things took a turn. Another cyclist approached Johnston from behind, so close that their “handle bars locked and that caused the front wheel to turn and when the wheel gets turned at that speed you basically go end over end on the bike,” said Johnston.  

“I landed on the ground on my back. He landed on top of me. That combination of things led to multiple injuries. There were four broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a broken clavicle, a cracked scapula and it broke the bottom of the shoulder socket.” 

The emergency crew took him to the Canmore General Hospital. Johnston, however, doesn’t live in the Bow Valley. On June 25, 2016, he was visiting from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.  

At the hospital, it was clear Johnston’s injuries were serious enough that he’d have to stay; it was his first overnight stay at a hospital and he happened to be out of town. Johnston had to stay at the hospital for four days to make sure his lung was stabilized before he was discharged.  

Almost immediately it became apparent to him that this wasn’t an ordinary hospital stay. Over the course of four days, he received visits from three of the people who’d responded at the scene of his accident.   

“They really cared and wanted to know how things were going,” said Johnston. 

“I was quite impressed with the staff,” he said. “You always hear these things about hospital staff they just sort of do the bare minimum and you get treated more like a number or a cattle in a pen and that really wasn't the case in Canmore,” he said.  

There were little things, he said, that went beyond basic health care. The food was not what Johnston expected from a hospital.  

“If you'd paid for a new restaurant you wouldn't have been disappointed,” he said.  

The coffee, however, was a different story. To his surprise, though, the next day hospital staff brought him a coffee from downtown. And when 5 pm rolled around – Johnston’s regular happy hour cocktail time – one day a nurse stopped by his room with a “mocktail” of orange juice, cranberry juice and ginger ale. 

“We seem nowadays to be so quick to complain,” said Johnston.  

When things go better than expected, maybe we mention it to a friend, he said, but “we tend to forget to thank the people involved,” he added.  

So when he returned home, Johnston sat down to write the staff a thank you letter.  

“The care received made the stay much less painful,” Johnston wrote in the letter. “You have a truly great and caring staff, which I realize does not come without some solid leadership and example.” 

He continued, “I simply cannot say enough to express my gratitude for the quality of care and the caring nature of the staff at all levels.” 

According to Barb Shellian, Director of Rural Health at the Canmore and Area Health Care Foundation, 30 per cent of the hospital’s ER visits are people who do not live in the area; and about ten per cent of in-patients, like Johnston, are also from outside of Canmore.  

Johnston encourages others to show their gratitude, whether it’s by writing a thank you letter or showing financial support. 

“If a person you know has the means and is able to make a contribution to the foundation I think that would be a good idea,” said Johnston.  

Meanwhile, the experience in the Canmore General Hospital has lasted in Johnston’s mind. Though he does regret one thing: not taking care to remember each individual’s name to thank each staff member personally. 

David Johnston is one of many people grateful for the care he received at the Canmore General Hospital. Medical staff often receive letters and thank you cards of appreciation and recognition when patients leave the hospital.


ken Pillipow