Happy Wednesday! I am sitting in the waiting room of surgical ICU waiting to go in to see my Mom and just witnessed a family being told their family member had died. Woof. Sadness. Everyone please take a moment to call your loved ones and say you love them. Thanks, I’ll hold.
Okay, we’re back.
Today in my ongoing quest to farm out my work (according to Nick Wyman, AEA President and resident critic of this blog), I have asked my older sister to write about the trip to the emergency room. This isn’t passing the buck-I wasn’t here and I know it was an event that is blog worthy. It’s more fun to hear about it from a reliable reporter rather than a bad game of telephone. Right? Right. Background on my sister: Susan is super smart (Yale grad and Northwestern Law School, and she is a partner in a big law firm here in Cincinnati. This “brag about your sister” moment is brought to you as tit-for-tat payback for her telling all the ICU nurses that I am on Broadway and they should ask me to sing for them.)
The point is, as the oldest, she’s reliable, as a lawyer she’s handy with things like, you know, power of attorney and other sticky paperwork that makes my palms sweat, and, as a BONUS, she is also a writer. (She just finished her first novel.) We are all in capable hands as my sister takes the wheel. I will interject things (because as an actress and the younger sister it is in my bloodstream to interrupt her) and when I do, I will be in italics and it will look like this.
A few Saturdays ago, my husband, Tony, and I were heading for the Cincinnati Home and Garden Show to get some
ideas for our back yard. For Sharon’s New York friends, a yard is a patch of grass to which you tend to some degree (I don’t, but others do). While we were driving downtown, my cell phone rang. It was my father (I call him Dad, or Pa, not “Chuck,” like my cheeky sister does). He calls me at home but never on my cell.
“Your mama isn’t feeling too well,” he said, sounding very worried. He never sounds worried, except about my mom.
Apparently, she was having another attack of abdominal pain and it was especially bad. She had been fine just a few hours before, taking her usual Saturday morning 100-mile walk someplace. I asked to talk with her myself. She did, indeed, sound terrible. She assured me that she had called her doctor, and the gastro doc on call had said she should call back if the pain got worse or she started to get sick. She said she thought she would get better—usually these attacks passed in a couple of hours. She was already scheduled for an endoscopy (something like that) the next Thursday to check on the source of these attacks.
Tony and I decided to go on and check out the garden show, telling Dad to call us if anything changed. At 6:00 in the evening, we called Mom and Dad. Mom thought she was a little better, so Tony and I went out for dinner. But afterward, as we were driving home, I started getting nervous. We decided to drive straight to my parents’ house so we could see Mom’s condition for ourselves. When we arrived, she was still sick—clearly she had been sick too long, this time. She called the doctor again who called in some pain medicine. Tony and I went to get it while our poor father looked nearly as miserable as Mom did.
We returned with the medicine a few minutes later, and my sister—that’s Sharon, our Blogger—was on the phone with Mom when we walked in the door. After some urging from Sharon and further discussion, Mom and Dad agreed that it was time to go to the ER.
Hi, it’s me, I am cutting in to report about the phone call. I called because it was the day I was buying a car–remember this from a couple of weeks ago? And as I said in that story, my Dad is the one who had taught me all of this horrible, manipulative car-buying behavior. I’d just put down the deposit on the Subaru Forester–remember it? a 2010 car with 2,700 miles and the interesting quirk of not starting..and I needed Dad’s input asap. My Mom answered the phone which is a very rare occasion in and of itself because Chuck ALWAYS answers–and she sounded horrible. I became very scared that something could burst….her gall bladder or just in general…that this was clearly bad. Rob’s whole pancreas situation taught me that if you have a healthy person with extreme pain, you don’t screw around. You make them go to the hospital. They won’t want to go, but when they are out of their mind in pain they aren’t thinking straight. I said all of this, but in truth it was our very own pancreas patient Rob Meffe who got on the phone with Mary Jo and convinced her to go. If you can believe it, I never got to talk to Dad about the car. The nerve. Now back to Susan….
Mom, of course, felt like she was making a fuss over nothing. Dad, of course, had lost his glasses which caused a
protracted search before we could continue on with the emergency. I think a pair of glasses turned up but I was never sure.
Around 10:00 p.m. we drove over to University Hospital, the teaching hospital of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where, conveniently, Mom also works for the surgery department. As we were driving, Mom, doubled over in pain, called a colleague and told her what was going on. That kind colleague, despite sadness in her own life that day, told Mom that she would alert the doctors in the UC surgery group. It made all of the difference that Mom’s friend took the time to do this, though we would not realize that for a few more days.
Tony dropped us off close to the entrance to the ER. I was torn between walking with Mom, who was, after all, the sick person who was doubled over, or with my Dad, who was lagging behind because of his bad feet. Mom made it inside first, through the metal detector, and into line to check in. We straggled behind her as Dad emptied his pockets and went through the metal detector a couple of times before emerging, having disgorged his watch or keys or pocket laser or something. As Mom, still in great pain, registered in the busy ER, her cell phone rang. I had no idea who could be calling her at this hour (if it wasn’t this same sister I’ve already mentioned).
It was somebody, I’m not sure who, telling her to bypass the ER entirely, walk through the dark lobby of the hospital, and go straight to the ninth floor. Her surgeon guys had “direct admitted” her. We took the elevator up to the quiet, very nice ninth floor where they ushered her into a private room with a view of the downtown skyline. They put her in a gown, and started an IV with pain medicine. Soon she was feeling better, though not great. That night, she had an abdominal x-ray which came back fine. She also had blood work done. When that came back, one of the doctors told her that she had “the healthiest blood in the hospital.” This reminded us of the stress test she’d had earlier that week where she was told that she had the “heart of a 40 year old.”
The medical people said that if nothing changed, she should plan to spend the night for observation, then continue with the endoscopy already planned for Thursday. In the meantime, various good nurses, doctors and other medical staff passed through and said hello. My dad, brother Buzzy, Tony and I just hung out until Mom was sleepy and then we went home.
On Sunday morning, she work up feeling well, had a good breakfast and was released. The next day, Monday, she went to work—with the surgery group at the very hospital where she had just been a patient. That’s when things got interesting.
(To read the next post in this series, go here)