Memories We Share – Part 8
The sun shines on tender tendrils of a vine that climbs my window. Puffy white clouds float in blue skies and all appears right in the world … if you focus.
Friday afternoon I started feeling the pounding of my pulse in my neck and chest. Pound -POUND – pound – STOP- stop – THUD- pound. I have felt this before and know I have an irregular heart beat, no big deal. I’m taking the same medication I’ve been taking for the past nine and a half years and it has always worked. I’ve even had a few very light episodes of this since. This day however, having had a major heart attack three weeks previously, I pay closer attention. I am light headed and just don’t feel quite right. I call the little clinic in our town and get the answering machine so I ask if they can get me in. No, this is not right, I can feel something is different. I tell you I’m going over to the doctor’s and you want to drive me.
After a hurried EKG they call an ambulance and we begin the twenty minute wait. You have time to go home, get my purse, get your billfold, leave fresh water for the pets and call a friend to see if you can get a ride to the hospital. I have you call both of my kids and finally the ambulance crew arrives and eventually they get me into the rig. On goes the heart monitor and the EMT begins his attempt to start an IV. I have tears running down my face as I explain that they have to let you ride along, policy or no, you have end stage COPD, I am your care taker and you can not stay alone. You have forgotten your portable oxygen and I wish I could take off the one they have put on me and give it to you. None of my veins will cooperate, as usual, and still we sit in the clinic parking lot.
“Um, I could be dying here – could we get on the way?”
“Nope, have to start the IV.” Give me the darned thing and I’ll jab it in my vein myself, I’m thinking, as the palpitations get stronger and I watch the monitor as my pulse of 45 shoots to 162, then down to the 80's, then sixties, back into the hundreds, and back to 40's.
“What is in the IV that is so important?”
“Vitamin water actually,” responds the EMT who is digging furiously at one tiny little vein he has found in my right hand right over the knuckle of my index finger. I laugh. Did that sound a bit hysterical?
Finally, we are on the road and I find we have a frustrated NASCAR driver at the wheel. It is twenty-seven miles to town and then another ten to fifteen minutes of city traffic to the hospital. Lights and sirens … all right … we may make it after all. I’ve asked to have my head elevated because I am uncomfortable flat on my back and watch as we fly down the old highway passing farm machinery, an Amish man in his horse pulled buggy, and I see the clouds of dust rise as grain trucks pull to the side of the road. Onto the interstate we go and everything is looking good.
CLUNK! JERK! This time, it is not my pulse. My EMT goes to the front and the two men have a discussion bordering on a loud disagreement. I holler out and ask what’s going on? Your voice comes back – “The transmission!”
“Shit,” I say out-loud.
“Nothing to worry about,” says my EMT. ”We’ll just go a little slower and get there in good time at fifty. She’ll run in this gear, just fine.”
I’m making notes to call my Congressman when and if I get back home. These budget cuts are getting a bit ridiculous when the counties can’t afford to maintain or replace their ambulances as needed. Now cars are whizzing past us at dizzying speeds and I hear the driver cuss and blow the horn as one car cuts us off after following a few yards, unable to pass because of the heavy traffic. Maybe this is the plan and we’ll go together in a fiery crash. My wish not to be left behind may yet be answered.
“Could you put my head back down, please?”
“Of course. Are you having pain?”
“Noo, this ride is scaring the shit out of me!”
“It will be all right,” the EMT says and I wonder if it’s for my benefit or his.
The ER is in sight and our cell phone has rung three times, twice from my daughter wanting to know where we are. She, her boyfriend, my granddaughter and her boyfriend have been at the hospital for over an hour. The other call is from my son saying he will be there as quickly as possible. His crew is working out of town.
A doctor, a nurse and my daughter enter the cubicle and begin to question me.
“Any chest pain?”
“No, none, just light headed and strong, irregular palpitations.”
“Are you TRYING to scare me to death? Where have you been?”
“Any allergies, what medications are you on, you had a heart attack on June 20th and they did angioplasty and put in a stent?”
Off go the contacts from the EMT’s monitor and on go those of the hospital. They don’t like the IV shunt and decide they are going to put in another.
“You folks want to step out?”
“A little stick here … it rolled. Have you always had deep veins?”
You watch as they dig around for veins and decide maybe that port will work after all and then all disappear outside of the curtain. A vampire, with another tray of syringes, appears and draws blood from the only vein I have left that hasn’t been blown by the IV attempts.
“How you doing?” I have been watching your color and breathing and you look ok, other than a bit winded.
“Oh, I’m good.” You set about teasing and tormenting my daughter and I see for myself you are really doing all right.
The curtains part and my sixteen year old granddaughter, boyfriend in tow, runs to my side, crying. Her eyes are red and huge. “G_ma, I love you – I threw up my Coco Puffs cause I was crying so hard!”
I lift my head and hug her close, telling her old G_ma isn’t going anywhere and wipe the tears from her troubled face. “You were worried because your “truck-driving grandpa” died after his heart attack weren’t you?” She nods and starts crying again, loud and harder than ever. Her boyfriend steps to her side and plants a kiss on her head and I tell him, “Back off Casanova, I’ve got this one.”
She relays to me in rapid-talk that she called into work at the pizza place and told them she was not coming in and she has on the sandals I bought her last year and they are still her favorites and she and Thomas went to the mall and took more pictures and put them on Face book and her Mom won’t buy her a soda. I look at my daughter and she is eyeing the young intern who, I have to admit, even caught my attention. Her boyfriend enters carrying a vase filled with beautiful roses they can ill afford. He is all grins.
You have nodded off but revive yourself when the Cardiologist enters. They are keeping me over-night and are going to monitor my heart. The blood tests aren’t back yet but he believes I may have had another heart attack. The stent could have closed or since my heart was damaged last time …
Your head snaps up and you question him, the last time they told you there was no damage to my heart. He looks over the chart and replies, “Semantics, a tiny bit of damage is done whenever there is a heart attack.” You are now wide awake.
Eventually, I am in a room, my son arrives as I am brushing my dirty hair back into a pony tail and I see relief flood his face. He hugs me and wants details and we speak in the language he and I use, more detailed and direct then I use with you or my daughter. He looks questioningly into my eyes and decides I am going to live – again, or rather still …