Taken just hours before shit got real. From World's End to a Sri Lankan emergency ward in less than 8 hours. True story.

I am Shaun’s mom Judy, and as many of you know, Rob (Shaun’s dad) and I recently traveled to Sri Lanka for a summer vacation. The vacation quickly became an adventure that strayed far beyond even Rob’s wildest imagination and ended with me spending a night in the Nuwara Eliya General Hospital.

The events  leading up to my unfortunate accident are somewhat hazy, but I seem to remember having to break up a street brawl and clear a bunch of drunks out of a crowded liquor store just prior to taking a header into a storm sewer in an attempt to save my first-born from the angry tuk-tuk drivers in pursuit.

Whatever the cause, I ended up with a broken arm and doctor’s instructions to see an orthopedic surgeon immediately upon our return to Regina, where I had surgery and spent two nights in the Pasqua Hospital.

The details of my stays in both hospitals offer a stark comparison of public health care in two different countries. Here are the dirty details:

The General Hospital in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

1. Emergency room:

  • looked like the mess hall at Camp Tawasi in 1945
  • three doctors sitting at small desks taking notes in triplicate
  • no waiting time – just walk up to a doctor and sit
  • stray, mangy dogs roaming freely in and out of hospital rooms, taking pet therapy to a whole new level.
  • barf in a puddle on the floor (which found its way to Shaun’s shoe)

2. Ward:

  • 16 metal frame cots reminiscent of World War II
  • two patients in many beds lying head-toe and toe-head
  • mattresses were 2-3 inches thick and filthy
  • no blankets or pillows (to be supplied by families
  • no food (to be supplied by families)
  • visiting hours 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.
  • two toilets – one a hole in the floor for the low-squatters , and the other a very low bowl for the high-squatters
  • no toilet paper, sink across the ward in another room
  • equipment to check oxygen, heart rate, etc. carried from room to room in a wooden box
  • yell if you need attention
  • cost : $0

The Pasqua Hospital in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

1. Emergency room:

  • brand new ER looking like the one on Grey’s Anatomy in 2011
  • security like Fort Knox
  • before you see a doctor, you see an admissions clerk, a triage nurse, and an ER nurse – wait about 2 hours
  • no animals
  • no bodily fluids on the floor

2. Ward:

  • visiting hours – anytime
  • private room and washroom with sink and toilet
  • heated blankets (if requested)
  • bed with a remote control
  • drool-repellant pillows
  • a call button
  • food that looks and tastes like the Fisher-Price variety
  • cost: $0

My night in the Nuwara Eliya General Hospital may sound like a nightmare to most, but in hindsight, it provided a pretty accurate summary of our time in Sri Lanka.

The nurse Indu, who found me a warm blanket to replace my hoodie, and called Shaun two days after my release from the hospital to see how I was doing; the woman in the bed beside me, who shared a cup of her hot, sweet tea and a biscuit for breakfast; her son, who expressed concern that I had no visitors at 6 a.m. and offered me the use of his phone – these are the images I will retain.

The jungles of Sri Lanka are not for the feint-of-heart. There are dangers at every turn – relentless heat and humidity, elephants and cows on the freeway, wild dogs roaming freely, lunatic bus drivers who speed up when they see an old, white lady crossing the street, open storm sewers, liquor stores full of people pretending they don’t drink, and tuk-tuk drivers ready to dive into your pockets whenever you exit a building.

So if you’re looking for a place which offers adventure, cheap transportation, spicy food, and some degree of pain, or at least discomfort, you’ll find it in the jungles of Sri Lanka, along with the most beautiful scenery in the world, well-dressed elephants, kind sick people and nurses, sandy beaches, and two of the most hospitable tour guides ever. Thank you Shaun and Trina, for the experience of a lifetime!

Editor’s note: If there was ever any doubt, we all now know for sure to never, ever mess with Judy Humphries. She will take things to the next level.