Last night I spent four hours in the emergency room at Queens Medical Center. Most of that time was spent in the waiting room while only the last hour was in the presence of doctors and nurses.
I was at school taking one of my final exams when my phone began ringing. Everyone turned and gave that same annoyed look that I’ve given others when their phone rings during a test. I quickly silenced the phone and then checked to see who it was. Why would my wife call me when she knows I’m taking a final?
I retreated to the hallway and called her back. The line was busy. I tried again and it was still busy. I waited a few seconds and tried again. It went strait to her voicemail. I must have called a half dozen more times before she finally answered. She was screaming in pain and said she couldn’t breathe.
“I think I’m having a heart attack.”
“Hang up and call 911!” I told her.
I packed my school bag in a haste, gave my half finished final exam to my professor. “I have an emergency, I’ll see you next semester.” I said. That means I wouldn’t be passing this class and would need yet another N or Incomplete, another chance at understanding deductive logic.
I’ve never pedaled so hard and so fast in my life. A million thoughts were going through my head as I bicycled through traffic, weaving in between cars and cautiously running as many red lights as I could without almost becoming roadkill. I tried to call my wife’s phone but there was no answer.
I called 911. “Police, Fire or Ambulance?” Ambulance! They asked for my location. I quickly explained that I was calling to see where my wife was being taken. The dispatch asked for the address. When I told them, they said the ambulance was still on scene. “I’m on my way.” I hung up the phone and began pedaling harder.
When I got to my street I could see the red lights flashing in the distance. My children were standing in front of our building with their Auntie who was lovingly nicknamed “Yaya” by my son when he was only two. I looked through the back window of the ambulance and saw my wife laying down, wearing an oxygen mask.
“Mommy is sick,” my son said.
The side door of the ambulance opened and a medic stuck his head out. “James, she’s doing okay. We’re going to Queens. Do you want to ride with us?” I stuck my head inside to see her and hold her hand.
“I’ll get the car and meet you there,” I said.
As the ambulance drove away I turned to my kids who looked sad and scared. I assured them that Mommy would be okay. They walked down the street with Yaya as I went up to the apartment to put away my bicycle. I changed my sweaty bicycling shirt to a nice, dry t shirt and went down to the garage to get the car. I have a suspended license but I didn’t care.
When I got to the emergency room at Queens, my wife was in the waiting room, sitting in a wheelchair. Her eyes were bloodshot, a blanket covered her lap and she gripped a small box of tissue. Her father Benito was sitting next to her but stood up and gave me his seat when he saw me.
I sat down with her and she began telling me her story. She was watching the five o’clock news, eating some of the pomelo that I had picked for her last week when all of a sudden she felt an extreme pain in her chest, her abdomen and her back. She said it felt like a sandwich, the pressure was coming from all sides. First she called Yaya, then her father, then me. The last number she called was 911. I told that if anything like this ever happens again, call 911 first!
We waited for about two hours before our turn finally came around. We filled out the necessary forms, got her fitted for a wristband and she gave some blood. I tried to break through the seriousness of the situation by making a few jokes and eventually I got her to smile and even laugh.
Once in an actual room, nurses began attending to her, giving her an EKG and a chest xray. Later the doctor came in and said everything looked fine. There was no heart attack. We were happy to hear that but then what was it? Gas? I’ve never heard of gas that severe. Was this just a medical mystery which would never be answered? Apparently so.
On the ride home we began talking. “This is a second chance,” she told me. “I want to make a change, I want to live long and be around for my kids.” We talked about exercising and eating healthy and making changes in our life for ourselves and for our children. We talked about the health of our parents and when we put it all together, it was a lot.
Her mother had a stroke, a brain aneurism and can no longer walk or talk or do anything. She has been bedridden for twelve years. Her grandfather and uncle both had fatal heart attacks in their 50’s. My wife has high blood pressure and takes medication to control it. Her mother had high blood pressure also but never took her medicine.
Obesity runs in my family. My mom had a gastric bypass nearly ten years ago which helped her lose over 200 pounds. My mom still has diabetes and sleep apnea. Both of my grandparents on my fathers side died of heart attacks. My uncle died of leukemia when he was twenty three. My oldest brother had two strokes a few years back and is now unable to walk or talk and he’s not even forty. As for me, I have no health problems that I know of but it’s been years since I’ve seen a doctor.
So my wife and I have a new reason to get healthy and it’s not just to look good in our clothes. It’s to live a long life and to see our children grow up.
And now to the Airport aspect of this blog. I’m boarding a plane tonight to visit my father in Seattle. His health is not so good and I haven’t seen him in over ten years. I’ll be gone for a week and am not sure how much I’ll be able to blog or whether I’ll be able to blog at all.
But I will be back.