[Use down time to take care of myself] I knew that no one would talk to us for a few minutes. There was too much paperwork and medical history to be done. From the time Suzie and I volunteered at the Ronald McDonald Family Room in the Children’s Hospital at Erlanger I knew there was a Starbucks in the Medical Mall. This was my window for breakfast so I went for it. Breakfast is not Billy’s forte.
Coming back I checked in at the desk to find that I had missed the paramedic that had been so helpful. She had been considerate enough to come out and tell me Suzie’s condition before she left. Oh well. The desk nurse said if she hadn’t heard in thirty minutes then she would check herself.
[Communicate] I had just enough time to start phone calls. I called my daughters to give them the news and ask them to pray. I shot straight and told them only what I knew. I think family deserves the truth without worrying about upsetting anyone. It’s upsetting news. They still deserve to know. They took it well.
I called Mom to fill her in and asked her to call the family for me. Cell phones were out of the question in a cardiac unit so this was my only chance.
My Philosophy of Waiting:
Do not fear a problem that doesn’t exist.
The fact that I have a philosophy of waiting is ridiculous but I’ve done this kind of thing a lot.
The tendency is to assume the worst and start planning for it. But the worst rarely happens. Most things I’ve worried about never came true.
When waiting for information it’s best to remember that you don’t have any information. That’s why you’re waiting. Any time spent delving into your worst fantasy nightmares is self-torture.
So, as Bagger Vance once said, I spent the time practicing the art of not thinking without falling asleep. I focused on breathing, when my brain ran wild.
[Pray] I also prayed whenever I could remember it.
I waited thirty-five minutes before talking to the nurse again. It was hard but I knew it was the best way to help. We finally got two magic visitor badges and were golden after that.
The small curtained area only held a bed and Suzie – everything I needed. She was in no pain at the moment and in a good mood. Surviving a possible heart attack does that, I guess. They were checking everything: three x-rays, blood work, cardiac enzymes, urine. Suzie had been able to walk down the hall unassisted.
Now we sat and waited more. Billy fell asleep on the tray table. With the urgent crisis past, it was time to get him home. He had huge amounts of school work to do. We stayed until they came to get her for the next test which, we were told, would take 2 and a half hours. Without Suzie, it was time to connect with the outside world. We saw her off and left.
Life doesn’t wait
Billy needed food and bed. I didn’t want to eat because it would put me to sleep and I had other plans. I checked on Mom and headed for the bank. I needed cash for the ER parking lot. I used my debit card. This is significant.
Back at the hospital I parked and headed for Starbucks – the other plan. I pulled my wallet out. No debit card. Having an extended family at my house means I’m never short of pocket plastic. I could cancel it without a problem once I got back to the land of cellphone coverage.
But it made me feel stupid. And it distracted me. Now, all day long I would be thinking of places I might have put it. Given my mental state it could have been in a refrigerator somewhere.
I flashed my golden visitors badge at the desk and they buzzed me into ER where Suzie wouldn’t be yet. But something didn’t look right. Her curtain was pulled closed. I stopped at the nurse’s station to check with the women who really run the hospital.
She had been moved.
“I’m glad you asked,” the nurse gave a wide-eyed look like she was imagining what I might have walked in on if I’d pulled that curtain. I was suddenly glad I asked too.
Chest Pain Unit
I navigated my way to a quiet area with large glass doors to patient rooms around a central nurses station. I didn’t like the look of it. It reminded me of intensive care where patients are kept visually in sight at all times. It looked serious.
I was pointed to glass door two where I found Suzie smiling back at me, a good sign. I delivered her favorite Crocks while my brain asked me why I could remember shoes but not my debit card. Sometimes I hate my brain.
Earlier, lying on the x-ray table brought Suzie’s pain back again making it hard to stay still. But this time she had another problem. She fell asleep, which made her jerk and threatened to ruin the images.
I liked this problem better. The drugs must have kicked in.
Now, she had been sent back here to wait. We stared until Suzie finally asked for the TV. I’d never had too much luck with hospital TVs. No one has. There was no remote. I couldn’t even find the power switch. I decided to bypass further injury to my engineer’s pride and just asked a nurse.
“We had remotes but they’ve all disappeared,” she informed. Then she walked in and hit the very strange looking power button (almost unrecognizable alien technology) and left without gloating, which I appreciated. I rolled my eyes at Suzie who was also considerate of my injured tech pride. I hadn’t told her about the debit card yet.
We watched Rachael Ray and The Chew, by which time I was ready to eat my arm, before I gave up and begged for information at the nurse’s station.
Suddenly the doctor appeared.
They always appear suddenly. I think they practice suddenness.
“All your tests came back negative,” he announced. “We’re discharging you.”
“But, what abo . . .”
“It could have been a severe back spasm that moved into your diaphragm causing trouble breathing,” was his best guess. He turned to go, his job finished.
“Wait,” I said to stop him from vanishing. “I have questions.” But I was so surprised I couldn’t think of much to ask. It might have been the suddenness, or the debit card, or Rachael Ray and Iron Chef Simon, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly was bothering me before he smiled and left.
He was just happy she didn’t have major heart problems. Other people nearby did. I was relieved, too, but mystified.
After all those tests, there was no answer. Only possibilities eliminated. She was sent home with appropriate drugs and a clean bill of health. Of all of our oddball and scary trips to the hospital, this was one of the more unsatisfying ones.
But you can’t argue with the outcome.
[To be continued . . . no, really . . . the conclusion]