Leon LeGrand sits in his hospital bed in Red Deer while waiting for surgery.

Leon LeGrand sits in his hospital bed in Red Deer while waiting for surgery.

Surgery delays prompt painter to seek help elsewhere

A Calgary painter is back in his home city after giving up his quest to get foot surgery in Red Deer after an agonizing wait of over a week.

A Calgary painter is back in his home city after giving up his quest to get foot surgery in Red Deer after an agonizing wait of over a week.

Leon LeGrand has been dealing with “obliterated” heels since Nov. 4, when he fell from a nine-metre ladder sitting atop scaffolding. He was working on a house-painting contract in Red Deer.

The 37-year-old landed on his feet, the impact breaking his heel bones and leaving him with compound fractures.

He was hurried to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and underwent surgery to stem the bleeding from his left foot and have three screws and two pins put in place. Surgery on his right foot and a follow-up on his left were supposed to happen the next day, but LeGrand is now in a Calgary hospital bed after never having his name called while in Red Deer.

“They’ve got more space down here, so hopefully they can get me in the (operating room) a bit quicker,” said LeGrand.

LeGrand said he was regularly told in the mornings by hospital staff in Red Deer that he was high on the list for surgery, but that he would inevitably get bumped down when more urgent cases came in. Each time he was scheduled for surgery he had to fast during the day and ingest lower amounts of painkillers in anticipation of the procedure.

“Everybody’s doing their jobs, it’s just limited resources, right? You could see how frustrating it was for the nurses and the doctors. They’d come back in later and say ‘There was a C-section’ or ‘There was a trauma.’ Then the nurse at the end of the day has to come in and tell me it’s cancelled.

“Everybody’s trying to do their best. It’s just in the richest province, especially a place like Red Deer, because it services so many different areas, I can’t believe that the resources are that limited,” said LeGrand.

After LeGrand’s girlfriend and business partner shared the couple’s story with the Calgary Sun on Tuesday and called hospitals in Calgary to inquire about surgical capacity there, a transfer was arranged for LeGrand, a father of six, to wait for surgery in Calgary. He said he believes the only reason the transfer request came through was because his girlfriend started to “make a stink about it.”

While unable to comment on the specific case, Kerry Bales, Alberta Health Services Central Zone senior vice-president, said surgical demand varies from day to day and there are times when less urgent cases have to be rescheduled.

“Anytime there are emergency cases, people are prioritized based on medical need and there are times when somebody may expect that they’re going to have a surgery at a certain time and something emergent may come up and it may cause a delay or a need to reschedule that other procedure,” said Bales.

He said if surgeries cannot be provided locally “within a window that would be considered medically necessary,” alternate arrangements will be made by AHS in consultation with patients.

Last week, Red Deer orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bryce Henderson told the Advocate that more operating rooms for emergency and elective surgeries are needed in Red Deer. The doctor was involved in LeGrand’s case, receiving praise from the patient for being forthright and honest about the frustrating wait.

LeGrand lived in Red Deer from the early 1980s to early ’90s, and said he was surprised the local hospital is not much larger than it was then, considering all the growth in the city and region.

Bales said there has been plenty of development at the hospital over the years, and AHS is always planning for the future needs of patients. He said patients can be assured that they will receive prompt emergency service at Red Deer’s hospital.

The Wildrose opposition issued a release on Wednesday called LeGrand’s plight “sickening” and an example of “a centralized bureaucracy that remains out of touch.” Last month, the party criticized rising emergency room wait times at the Red Deer hospital.

LeGrand has been told he could be walking again in three months and back to work in six. He said he feels lucky to have landed on his feet.

“If I had landed any other way, I’d probably be paralyzed or with a lot more damage than there was,” he said.