Just My Luck – Chapter 11 – Part 1
Diagnosis: Acute Compound Frenzy
Late 2014 and the first half of 2015 turned out to be a very frenzied time for us. Our daughter and son-in-law were formally introduced to new parenthood and settling in to new home ownership at the same time. Our son and his fiancée were married in on a beach in Hawaii and later purchased their first house as well. Doris and I, having sold our home in Maine and found our next home in Connecticut, downsized our belongings, and re
-modeled every room in our new digs. For much of that time she and I were nomads, bouncing from Maine to New Hampshire (where our son and daughter-in-law live) to Connecticut to New Jersey (where our daughter, son-in-law, and our first grand-baby live).
So no surprise, this was a multi-stress filled and tiring period in our lives.
Increasingly I found I was hard pressed to keep up with:
- driving miles and miles of road,
- arranging the disposition to multiple venues of several rooms full of furniture and other contents,
- loading and unloading heavy loads
- coordinating the storage of our remaining belongings while our condo was being refurbished,
- deciding on wall colors, carpeting, fixtures, appliances, etc.
- working with our contractor on logistics,
- scheduling when we had to be where,
- unpacking, and
- … well, you get the picture.
Never ones who liked or were particularly good at multi-tasking, Doris and I were operating in a foreign environment of upheaval for the better part of a year.
I attributed a good portion of my rapidly advancing lethargy (now there’s an oxymoron) to having begun my sixth decade on the planet a few years before. There was a time when renting a moving truck, loading it with furniture, driving it 400 miles, off loading it, and returning the truck was a chore, but one I could handle without much difficulty.
Not so between Christmas and New Years 2014/15. The U-Haul run was my chore but I was “doggin’ it,” letting friends and relatives do much of my heavy lifting as we filled the 20-foot truck with “stuff” from our soon to be vacated house in Maine. The load was destined for New Hampshire and New Jersey. Even though I was working at less than half the pace and capacity of my helpful relatives and friends, I had to stop often and bend over just to catch my breath. They noticed and told Doris they were worried. I just felt guilty for not doing my part.
Eventually, with little help from me, the job was done, but I was worried and then scared. As much as I wanted to ignore it, I knew “in my heart” something was really wrong.
We were living with (freeloading on) our daughter & son-in-law in New Jersey after selling our Maine abode and while our condo in Connecticut was being renovated. A few days into the new year, my stamina finally evaporated altogether. Climbing the stairs just to go to bed was a serious chore. Doris was deeply concerned that whatever was ailing me was serious. She knew she’d had good reason when I finally asked her to call an ambulance.
The EMTs arrived with the wonderful combination of concern, caution, upbeat banter, professionalism and calming influence that they all seem to have. They asked Doris and me the questions whose answers gave them a quick and fairly comprehensive assessment of
the situation. They packaged me onto their gurney and into their ambulance and we headed to Overlook Hospital in nearby Summit, NJ. In route they administered an EKG and sent my data on ahead to the Emergency Room. I couldn’t help but think once again that my father never had the magical advantage of technology on his side like I did.
I was feeling pretty good when we arrived and thought that this may well have been a false alarm. I had my second wind and tried to reassure Doris not to worry; all was well.
She wasn’t buying it, and neither was the Emergency Room doctor.
My family heart history and my own had preceded me. This physician wasn’t about to let me out of her hospital until I’d been scanned from stem to stern.
So we waited.
There’s nothing quite like waiting in an Emergency Room. All of them are built on time warps, where minutes are hours and people bustle all around you but none come to your bed to let you know what’s up.
I grew my first beard in an Emergency Room.
There and Back Again
Judging by the number of people in that ER there must have been a full moon that night. I was lucky to be in one of the small ER examination rooms. Quite a few people were awaiting attention on beds in the hallways. The scene reminded me of images of hospital wards in third world countries. But any similarity between those facilities and this hospital’s facilities ended at the beds lined up along the walls.
Overbrook Hospital was staffed and equipped to provide world class medical care. Lucky all of us.
Eventually an orderly came and rolled my bed out of the examination room and into the inner sanctum of the facility. We arrived at the room where the oversized cat scan donut lived. The orderly put me in line behind a few other occupied gurneys, nodded when I said “thanks,” and left.
When I had my turn and my test was done, a different orderly rolled me away. When we reached a certain hallway, however, he parked my bed between two floor-to-ceiling curtains and was obviously about to leave me there. “Where ya going?” I asked. Smiling back at me, he told me not to worry, someone would be along soon to take me the rest of the way back to the ER.
Apparently, I was at some sort of transfer station. This must have been a big hospital if they needed relay teams to move patients around. I checked to see if I had some sort of tag on my toe saying “If lost, please return patient to…”
Occasionally a hospital worker pulling on his or her overcoat walked by in one direction. Workers from the opposite direction were removing or carrying their overcoats. Most were absorbed in the music or phone conversations connected to their ear buds. None of them bothered to look at me.
After what I guessed to be 10 minutes lying alone in my open-backed thin cotton smock, I wondered if anyone knew where I was. I resolved to try to flag down and ask the next hospital person going in either direction whether I’d been forgotten. I tried, but none of them bothered to hear me either.
Then it dawned on me, I was in Overlook Hospital. Now the name made sense.
Someone finally arrived to finish my journey back to the ER, where my former examination room was now someone else’s.
Doris sat on a folding chair against the wall in the hall where the second orderly had parallel parked me. And so, we waited some more. Actually, I took a healthy portion of comfort in the fact that no one was in a particular hurry to attend to me. I was happy to be one of the crowd here, the crowd was okay. If someone was running down the hall to get to me, I’d have been worried.
After another indeterminate time the ER physician came to talk with Doris and me. The test results were in. The enzyme test showed categorically that I did not (yet) have a heart attack, but the cat scan gave reason for real concern. For the second time in my life, I had serious blockages in my heart. (It had to have been from the strict diet of unhealthy foods I indulged in despite Doris’s attempts to feed me good stuff.)
Overlook was one in a corporation of hospitals that each provided its own areas of specialty. In this group, Morristown Hospital had the surgeons, physicians, nursing staff, equipment, and support personnel that specialized in coronary medicine. I was told they also were likely to have available hospital rooms, so I had my second ambulance ride of the day.
©2016 James Ash