I dialed 911 one afternoon because I thought that I was having a heart attack. I had been wide-awake for two nights with a pounding heartbeat, but without the shooting left arm pain, the anxiety of the possible outcome doubling the tightness of shoulder muscles and the paces across the living room floor.
Waiting for the squad to arrive, I changed shirts, from a conservative polo into my favorite Chicago Bears replica jersey. Ditka would’ve wanted it that way and if I were to die, I wanted to be remembered as a die-hard Bears fan.
The rescue squad members were mostly volunteers (thank God for volunteers). As I was being carted from the house, the one young man wearing cammo pants noticed my 22-rifle laying across the dining room table.
“You been squirrel huntin’?”
“Nah, just target shoot in’”
En Route, the one paid EMT brought up the possibility of meeting a helicopter on the way to town to speed-up my trip to the hospital. The nitro-glycerin tablet was kicking-in which relaxed me, plus I’m way too frugal to fall for hidden fees & charges, so I refused the copter ride. Then I was asked if I had a preference of hospitals.
I’m thinking “Yea, the one that will keep me from dying would be nice.”
“Well, RMH has a better cardio facility than SMH”
That’s convincing enough, I thought to myself. “Hang a right”
The ER was well-run, very efficient. I was settled into an uncomfortable bed and hooked-up to various monitoring devices. The funny thing about anxiety is that it can be immediately calmed when you’re planted into a safe environment, say like a building full of doctors, nurses, and crash carts. I suddenly became more concerned about my Dad’s worrying and my sister’s arrival than I did about my own survival.
In the curtained space to my right was a female teenaged car accident victim. Her mild injuries were nowhere as painful as the tongue lashing that she was receiving from her mom and “he’s not my real dad” step-dad. The driver of the car was a much older boy. There was alcohol present. Who in the hell was paying for everything? The ER doctor spoke calmly to the young accident victim amid a high-tempered volley of insults and accusations between family members.
Maybe ten minutes later, that same doctor made a second visit to check on me and my condition.
“How am I? I tell ya what, Doc. (whispering) Your bed-side manner is above and beyond the call of duty”
He just smiled and chuckled briefly.
Never been sick in my life until the past few years. I’ve just been saving it all up for a good one. During these past few years, I’ve learned a couple of tell-tale signs of how you will know that I’ve gone from sick to better. For some people, it’s “oh, the color in your face is so much better”. For me, it’s the return of humor and flirtatiousness.
My primary attending ER nurse was named Emily. And she was a cutie. Not like a pop-star/actress kind of cutie. More like a soon to be a pure and simply gorgeous Southern Lady kind of woman. There was a warm glow about her pretty face, beautiful smile, and heart-calming personality. She made the blue scrub pants and flower-print top look good, despite the ring on her left hand (another of the sure signs that I was getting better, noticing a ring on the finger).
I was ordered an injection of morphine, for whatever reason, I don’t remember why. Emily warned me that I would soon feel a warm, flush sensation come over my body and that was perfectly natural, not to worry why. As the morphine entered my veins, my entire body melted.
“You O.K.? Everything all right?”
“Emily. Is that stuff available in a six-pack to go?
Sign of me feeling better No. 2. Humor.
Much against my stubborn male ego’s protests, I was kept overnight for further observation. It had been discovered by the doctors that I hadn’t eaten for the last ten hours, which made me a prime candidate for additional testing that might lead to the root of my problems.
The highlight of the next morning was the ‘stress test’. An early morning sonogram had shown no evidence of an alien implant, so the search for imperfection was narrowed down to stressing my heart. After being hooked-up to various monitoring devises, I was encouraged to walk the incline of a treadmill at the “highest rate at which I found comfortable”. The two young female attendants were actually talking about boyfriends as I began a torrid pace, fueled both by my insatiable competitive nature and the comforting assurance that if I was to have a massive heart attack while breaking the treadmill world record, I was in a hospital and I’d be saved, God willing.
Later that day, after six other tests, I was convinced by family and the doctor to stay a second night in the hospital to ‘insure’ that I wasn’t going to die. (Years later, I’ve become very skeptical of all those tests).
I had a private room on the first day, on the first floor. In order to stay a second night, I would have to be moved up to the third floor and share a room with another patient. Me and my most-annoying-patient-self-ever settled into my new room with my new roomie, an older gentleman with family all around.
It was near ten-o’clock, the curtains between our beds drawn shut, when the night shift apparently began their shift. I was mentally plotting my escape from the hospital via the dirty laundry shoot, when my privacy curtain was swung open by the night shift nurse.
“Hello, my name is Olga. I’ll be your nurse this evening”
Before me stood a beautiful young Ukrainian woman, who knew not that I was a sucker for Eastern European accents.
“You will be here for just one night?”
“I’ll be here all the week…Don’t forget to tip the veal. And try your waitress!”
(young people, Google it)