“I think I need to go to the hospital,” Jerry says to me. “I’m having chest pains and they’re not going away.”
I’m in my pajamas and it’s after midnight. I had stayed up to read my book (When A Crocodile Eats the Sun).
I go down the list of heart attack symptoms. “Does it feel like an elephant is stepping on your chest?”
“No,” he says, “it’s periodic stabbing pain that comes and goes.”
“Trouble breathing? Pain radiating down your arm?”
“No, but my breathing is shallow when I have the stabbing pain….Ohhhhhyeeech, there’s another one.” Jerry puts his hand over his heart. I suggest calling 911. “No, just drive me,” he insists. I throw on some sweat pants and grab my keys.
We’re cruising as fast as it is for me to drive legally. The world at this hour seems like a science fiction movie. No people or traffic exist. I have the road and the whole world to myself. Jerry grimaces and groans when I go over a bump too fast.
While reading my book earlier that evening, moments before Jerry told me he needed to go to the hospital, I read about the author’s mother calling to tell him in a strained voice, “It’s your father. He’s had a heart attack. I think you’d better come home.”
No sooner had I placed my bookmark in the book, when Jerry announced his chest pains and need for the hospital. My life and the author’s life seem blurred together.
I pray I will not be making a call like the one the author’s mother made.
I pull up to the front door of the emergency room and let Jerry off while I park the car. Inside I find Jerry standing in line to check in. A man wearing blue-print pajama bottoms leans over the check-in window.
“Do you want to sit while I wait?” I ask. Jerry says he feels better standing.
I guess the hospital believes if you’re able to walk in, then you’re able to wait. You could die waiting in line, but at least you would die knowing you politely waited your turn.
Finally, a staff person hiding behind a white face mask (it’s flu season) motions to Jerry. His turn has arrived. The white-masked staff person sits behind a glass partition and asks for Jerry’s driver’s license. After entering all the appropriate data, she gets around to asking his symptoms. When he says chest pains, things speed up. A male nurse, attired in a blue uniform, pops out of nowhere. He ushers Jerry to a room, hooks him up to an EKG. Soon, another nurse appears and orders Jerry into a wheelchair. “I can walk,” Jerry says. The nurse states, matter-of-fact, “Hospital policy, you need to get into the wheelchair.”
In another room, nurses attach cords to Jerry and they seem to come out of him in every direction. Machines whir and beep. A young girl, with a ponytail hairstyle, saunters in. She explains she is the doctor in charge. I assume she started medical school in Kindergarten as she doesn’t look older than 12. She tells us it will be three hours before they have the results of the tests; blood draws, x-rays, and who knows what else.
I drive home to get some rest, leaving Jerry sprawled on a bed in a maze of cords. As I drive across the desert at 3 a.m., I notice the full moon looming in a bright glow against a dark sky. Hours before reading my book or learning of Jerry’s chest pains, I had enjoyed a fun night with my Hoodettes, dear friends who are my sisters in our Sisterhood Support Group. We had dinner together at a Mexican restaurant. After that, we all attended Paint Nite, an event where everyone paints the same painting with the option of ordering drinks. We painted a sunset and a tree with fireflies and a moon. “I paint the moon with my fingers,” the painting instructor had said. “It’s easier to have control in making the moon round.” The full moon I see above the desert reminds me of my acrylic moon. Not wanting to use my fingers, I had attempted to make it round with my paint brush.
At home I sleep for three hours, then back at the hospital. I find Jerry in the same position as when I left~sprawled on a bed with cords coming out of his body in every which way.
“The doctor will be in soon,” the nurse tells us with a straight face. We know “soon” to a doctor is an eternity for others.
We wait and wait. “If the doctor isn’t in here by 9, I’m walking out of here,” Jerry says. I encourage him to wait a little longer.
Eventually Dr. Prescott comes in around 10 a.m. He is older than our previous junior high doctor, at least thirty. He apologizes for not visiting sooner and elaborates, “I just pronounced a man dead from cardiac arrest.”
I wonder if he is informing or threatening.
He tells Jerry his tests look good and he doesn’t have heart issues. But he has inflammation and Dr. Prescott prescribes what seems like a hundred different medications.
As we wait for a nurse to bring the prescriptions, I notice the staff in the emergency room hustle back and forth with sober looking faces. EMT’s wheel in a man who looks to be in his seventies. He has closed eyes and his face pale white like candle wax. Women slump in chairs with worried expressions for their loved ones. No one smiles here. This is a universe of life and death matters.
Jerry and I stroll out the hospital doors, feeling grateful for his health and that he can walk out. Back at home, Jerry takes his medications and once the drugs kick in, he becomes a new man. I think about the woman whose husband the doctor pronounced dead. She didn’t walk out of the hospital with her husband by her side.
Later, when I get back to my book, I learn the author’s father pulled through and survived his heart attack. Is my life imitating this book? But now as I look at the picture in the book’s inside cover, it’s eerily similar to my painting. I don’t know if that means anything to you, but I find it strange. I’ve got to take this book back to the library as soon as possible. ♥βω