Yesterday, while some of you were reading about how to prepare for a crisis, I was having one.

So, today I’m using myself as a case study, a test to see if my experience has taught me anything. Because experience is a word implying that you learned from your mistakes, instead of just making more of them.

Since this is a long story and I’m tired, I will be posting this in pieces throughout the day.


Suzie woke me up sitting on the side of the bed and quietly rocking. While I was trying to figure out what time it was, I heard her gasp in pain. I hardly ever hear that. I immediately popped wide awake.

I later found out she had had constricting pain from her back around to her chest for almost an hour and had been trying not to wake me up. Yeah, I know. But instead of getting better it was getting worse. By the time her gasp woke me up, she was hurting too badly to stay quiet. Given her proven pain tolerance, this was a big deal.

[Don’t panic]

[Pray] Lord, please help her, ease her pain and make her OK.

[Think] I tried rubbing her back. Nothing. She sat up. She laid down. It got steadily worse. I tried to think, which is not easy with Suzie in pain.

“Do you think you’re having a heart attack?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what that feels like.” She was taking fast shallow breaths. I tried to get her to relax and slow down. “I’m having trouble breathing,” she said. “Something is wrong!

[Make decisions.] There is no more urgent emergency than a breathing emergency. You can break things, hurt and bleed for a long time – as long as you can still breathe. You can only not breathe for as long as you can hold your breath underwater.

[Do what you have to do.]

There was no choice but to call 911.

That’s a big decision. It costs money, makes noise and attracts a lot of unwanted attention. But when things get bad enough, that actually sounds good. I committed and called it in, starting an unstoppable chain of events.

The always frustrating conversation with 911, endless questions and assessments, made it real for Suzie. She started to cry, again unusual, which made it hurt more. As I talked her eyes got bigger and her breaths shallower and faster. I finally begged off the phone to get back to her.

“They’re on their way, Sweetie. Try to relax and breathe slowly.” This is, of course, an incredibly annoying thing to hear when you’re in pain but I was doing my best.


“Hand me those pants,” she said. Naturally, she was already ahead of me. I quickly helped her get dressed for the crowd and cold. I quickly dressed. Because hospitals are meat lockers, I grabbed some thick socks for Suzie and put them in my coat. There was no time to pack a bag.

What next? Billy! I had to get my son up before the chaos hit. Since college students are nocturnal, he had been up writing a paper all night. He dragged himself to consciousness.

“Get my purse,” Suzie called. Right. We would need her insurance card and I.D. She was thinking better than me, even in her pain. I heard sirens in the distance.

Billy was up. I explained the situation and got him to stay with Suzie. I would have to guide the ambulance up the hill. Our place is not easy to find.

“I love you Sweetie. I’ll be right back,” I called. I hated to leave her alone with Billy. Suzie had watched her father die of a heart attack on a dark night like this while her mother was in the other room calling 911. It was not a memory I wished for neither of them as I ran into the cold and down the hill. Again, I had no choice.

Lights were flashing through the trees. Houses are terribly marked on our hill and the twisty road is the price we pay for a good view. From experience I knew they’d never find it. A firetruck came up the drive and was stuck at the gate. I guided them through and ran ahead to show the way.

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast

“Thanks for guiding us in,” the fireman said as he grabbed his gear. “The ambulance is lost on the other side of the highway.”

Great news. I ran ahead to hold the door.

Firemen and emergency personnel move at a practiced, methodical, slow, steady, thoughtful pace to keep from making mistakes, forgetting things and having to do things twice. An incredibly annoying habit to those charged with adrenaline. But still, our bedroom filled with large men and equipment before I could turn around.

[Let them work.] I have learned that medical people aren’t helped by me trying to help. I could be a genius (I’m not) and they would ignore information that came from me while the patient is right in front of them. I kept my adrenalized mouth shut by the hardest and went to help with the door. A short, uniformed girl (Those younger than my own daughters all look like girls to me now) came around the corner carrying a load.

“We finally found you. We were blah, blah blah,” was what I heard as I guided the ambulance’s paramedic to the bedroom. She was about half the size of the firemen in the room but effortlessly took command. The crowd parted.

“It’s Okay. Relax. Take slow breaths and tell me what’s going on,” she began. Again, I fought the urge to jump in with quick information. It was painful to hear Suzie relay the story slowly in shallow gasps. I tried to go stand by Billy but the crowd had forced him into our closet and there was a football team of uniformed men between us.

We were reduced to standing by and waiting . . .

[to be continued]

Emergency Part 2

Emergency part 3

Emergency – The Conclusion


Photo By Elvert Barnes via Flickr