I stepped down off the treadmill after 15 minutes of slow, steady walking. The little cloth bag holding the heart monitor banged against my chest as my skin itched where the sticky sensors attached to my body.
“What would you like to do next?”
They don’t accept that what I would’ve liked was to lay down for a nap right there on the rough gray rug of the cardiac rehabilitation center floor.
“Ok, then. Let’s go over to the Nu-Step and do a little more.”
Sure, I thought, let’s go over there and you do a little more.
Why am I here?
Regardless of reasonably good health and living a full life for 80 years, I was shocked when, at 3:45 in the morning a few weeks ago, I woke from a sound sleep, knowing something was drastically wrong. I walked down the hall into the kitchen and doubled over with excruciating pain. The thesaurus says “excruciating” means agonizing, unbearable, severe, piercing, racking, awful pain. It was, at least, all of those.
Gasping, I roused my spouse. A quick home blood pressure monitor read 200/116, so we called 911. I described my chest pain, and the dispatcher quietly said, “I have sent a unit. Help is on the way.”
Less than 10 minutes after we called, the big fire truck came with three EMTs and a portable EKG. They placed cathodes all over me and hooked me up to their monitor. The ambulance crew arrived with a stair-climbing gurney, wheeled me out, and I had my first ambulance ride.
As they closed the doors of the ambulance, the last thing I saw was my spouse standing and watching in front of the garage. I felt submerged by a wave of COVID19-induced loneliness for him and for me.
Only 36 hours later, an aide helped me put on the nightgown and bed jacket I wore to the hospital in the ambulance. She pushed my wheelchair to the front door of the hospital where my spouse met me with sandwiches and coffee. I went home with a tiny new piece of hardware in one of my heart arteries, keeping it open and totally operational for the future.
Lots of Help
Between the 911 dispatcher and the wheelchair aide who rolled me out of the hospital, 44 different people cared for me in those 36 hours. That involved EMTs and firemen, and emergency room personnel, including the nurse who regularly called my husband to report every action they were taking with me. There was the Catheter Lab doctor, nurses and techs, the recovery room nurses.
I’ll never forget aides like cute Kevin, who always asked if I minded that he touch me before he took care of me. I’ll remember the techs who regularly took my vital signs, the four different women who came to draw my blood, the echo-cardio specialist who spent 30 minutes moving her cold goo-covered hand-held sensor over my chest, side, and neck, to see if my heart was working right.
Then there were the diabetes and nutrition educators and the cafeteria workers who brought me warm salty chicken broth and a milk shake.
The tall caring, exercise manager, Devon, walked with me around the hall and visited me later, encouraging and cheering me on.
The chaplain prayed for me, and the social worker talked with me, and a guy sang to me as he mopped the floor.
These are the people, masked earth angels, who face exposure to COVID every time they go to work. Their work is often unpleasant: They work long shifts—ten hours or more—with blood, with cranky and frightened patients, and with urinals.
The EMT in the ambulance was on his 23rd hour of a 24-hour shift.
Last summer our neighborhood howled every evening at 8 p.m. to honor this dedicated group of people. I want to start that tribute again. I owe these people my life. The least I can do to repay them is to do the job of getting stronger, so I won’t have to bother them again.
So, three weeks after that momentous 36 hours, instead of a nap on the floor, I slog over to the Nu-Step, climb on, and do one more session of cardiac exercise before they release me. I add this staff of five people to the other 44, so let’s call them 49.
I arrived home to rest and read a bit in my comfortable recliner chair. Here, instead of finding out who-done-it in the mystery I am reading, I slept soundly and safely, old but recovering, thanks to my masked earth angels. MSN