ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10
Heart Attack! Heart Attack! These dreaded words embedded themselves deeply into my brain. As the tightness across my chest attacked my pain level, I took long deep breaths and released each one slowly. Heart attack? I decided this wasn't a time to be alone. Calmly I dialed 2318 and was fortunate to have Erika, the duty nurse, answer. She arrived quickly with her blood pressure machine and other medical supplies.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how do you rate your pain?”
That's a tough one. Never having had a heart attack before, how was I supposed to know? I guessed that 7 would be a good number…or not.
"192 over 92," Erika said which is a long way from my normal blood pressure of 120 over 68. We agreed that calling 911 and having the paramedics give me an EKG was a good idea. In a few minutes my apartment was invaded by big muscular, hansome, paramedic/firemen pushing in a gurney loaded with big machines, tubes and wires.
“Would you like some oxygen?”
I immediately thought of the popular Oxygen Bars where young people buy time at an oxygen tank to go on a high and get happy. This would be a perfect time for me to get happy, if it does the same for me. So I said, “Yes! Thank you.”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how do you rate your pain?”
This time I said “Oh, about 5 or 6.”
Actually, I didn't pay much attention to it. I was more interested in the cute young paramedic who looked liked he should be a movie star. I asked if he was featured in this year's Calendar of Firemen. He answered that I was going to Tri-City Hospital to be checked out.
“On a scale of 1 to 10…”
“How am I supposed to get there?” I asked, looking at the one-size-fits-all-small-people gurney. “I'll never fit into that!”
“Oh, sure you will! We'll put the side down.”
I convinced them to let me get myself out of my wheelchair and sit on the side of the gurney. They would then only have to lift my feet onto the top. Squeezing me in and fighting to put up the sides to keep me from rolling off was their problem. After much grunting and struggling, the four musclemen finally got me strapped onto the teeny tiny gurney. Soon I was rolling out of my apartment and onto Grand Avenue, and past a crowd of residents, tourists, rubbernecks and eye-ballers. Nobody cheered.
I wanted to wave to everyone but couldn't. I was totally strapped in.
“Are you going to be able to lift this thing into the ambulance without dropping me?”
“Oh, sure, We do this a lot. Don’t worry.”
Easy for him to say. That's when I began saying the Serenity Prayer: “God give me the courage to accept the things I cannot change…”
First I heard the creaking, then the crash of the gurney going in. I'd safely landed in the ambulance. Next came the interrogation during the bumpy trip to Tri-City Hospital. I wondered who designed the ambulance and if they worked overtime to make the ride so uncomfortable and bouncy. It could be some kind of a test!
“On the scale of 1 to 10…” Ambulance ride, straps, and midget gurney? I decided on 11.
“How am I supposed to get off this thing and onto the hospital bed?”
“Don’t worry,” said my hero with a beautiful smile. “We'll lift you with your sheet right onto the bed.” I searched my brain for a “strong sheet” prayer.
“You're crazy! This sheet won’t hold me. It'll split right down the middle. You'll have to scrape me off the floor.” I guess I told him!
In seconds I was mobbed by a couple of large paramedics and several small nurses.
“One, two, three!”
“Oh, God! “
I was speeding toward the ceiling and dropping to the bed all at the same time.
He heard me! The sheet didn't tear! “Oh, thank you, God! “
The Emergency Room nurse asked, “On a scale of 1 to …”
“One, ” I interupted. ”Can I go home now?”
“No. You need to be x-rayed and have a few tests.”
Then came an invasion of workers who took blood, x-rays, stuck both of my arms with IVs, attached tubes for oxygen, injected Lasix, measured blood pressure, pulse, heartbeat, urine…That was only the beginning.
The ER doctor greeted me; “I'm Dr. Kasar. On a scale of 1 to 10…”
I rested while the tests were completed and results were recorded. Like I had a choice. But at least I was here for the night. Good grief, 9 pm already.
The doctor reappeared and told me that my HMO, Kaiser Permanente, was sending an ambulance to take me to their hospital in San Diego about 50 miles away. Well, at least the freeway traffic should be light. “Oh, my God! Not again. I have to go from bed to gurney, then gurney to another bed.” I searched my brain for a “strong sheet” prayer.
The ambulance arrived, but this time with a gurney that looked a little wider and with a crew of three that looked like they could handle me. The transfer was better than I thought it would be and once in the ambulance, one side of the gurney was dropped so I could let it all hang out.
At Kaiser Hospital I was taken directly to the Cardiology Ward and a waiting bed. I held my breath, but this time I was slipped off the gurney to a back board and onto a bed encircled by nurses waiting with their machines, tubes, wires, needles and other equipment. In record time I was again hooked up and continuing my tests.
One by one they finally left. I couldn't wait to get some sleep.
“Mrs. Jacobs? I'm Brenda, your nurse."
"Huh? Good God, it's the middle of the night!”
"On a scale of 1 to 10…”
The hospital pharmacy delivered all my prescriptions and I was given my medications, plus a sleeping pill. After a struggling period of multiple body adjustments, I was almost sure that I would not strangle on the giant web of tubes and wires, if I lay perfectly still on my back. I finally fell asleep with one eye open keeping watch. True to all horror stories of nights in a hospital, at 3 a.m. a male attendant appeared with a rubber tourniquet and a big needle. “Wake up, Mrs. Jacobs. I need to get some blood.”
“You need more blood? I already gave. What are you doing with all my blood?” With a menacing grin, he replied, “I’m selling it.”
At precisely 7 o’clock, my morning nurse, Dolores, appeared and began checking all my wiring and tubes. She tightly wrapped the blood pressure cuff around my upper arm. “Keep your arm still and do not talk,” she ordered as the machine began pumping and inflating the cuff that dug into my arm.
I cried out, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
“Please don’t talk,” she warned me. “Your blood pressure is good. Now on the scale of 1 to 10…”
“Zero!” I proclaimed triumphantly. “Now can I go home?”
“No, You will be having an echogram this morning, so that means nothing to eat before the test.”
It was after 2 pm when I was wheeled down to the Cardiology Department. I kept repeating the Serenity Prayer which kept me from being nervous or afraid. Three young nurses pushed the narrow gurney into the Echogram Room. I was told to roll over onto my side. Yeah, Sure. We all pushed and pulled with just a breath of success. I was uncomfortable and in pain, but that was not important to the nurses who encouraged me to relax on a table the size of an ironing board. I would have to survive for at least twenty minutes in this pretezel position. In addition, I had to take deep breaths and release them slowly while the nurse poked me with full force in my ribs under my breast. Every once in awhile she would exclaim, “Very good. That was a good one.”
Again and again that was punctuated with the death-gripping grasp of the blood pressure cuff.
“Good. Very good,” said the doctor as he watched my heart beating and pumping on the screen. He was ecstatic when the nurse monitoring the IV said that my heart beat had reached 140. That was the end. He disappeared with the film only to return five minutes later to tell me that I did not have a heart attack. There was no damage to my heart, and the slight enlargement of my heart was nothing to worry about.
I could go home! That was wonderful news. My gurney was pushed out into a hallway where I was told that transportation would be here soon to take me back to my room. Nurses, aides, doctors and orderlies all walked past me paying no attention to my unattended body lying against the wall. I kept watching the big clock on the wall. I was about to demand attention when the transportation orderly appeared and
whisked me back to my room. Another harrowing move from gurney to
bed with a successful landing. “Thank you, God!”
The Discharge Lady appeared and asked how I planned to get home. I had no idea as I did not have any money, credit cards or identification. I guess I needed to make the trip home by ambulance, but Kaiser would not pay for the return trip home and neither would Medicare. Ms. Discharge Lady did offer the name of a gurney ambulance service, but I would have to pay them as soon as I arrived home. Thank God for credit cards. I could do that if they would just wheel me into my apartment so I could get my hands
onto my VISA card. She said she would take care of it. She immediately disappeared as it was five o’clock and quitting time.
Nurse Choy came in to say that the report of the echogram was not in the “SYSTEM”, and I could not leave until the doctor read it and then completed filling out the discharge papers. “Oh where, oh where could he be?”
The next morning I was informed by Nurse Naomi that I had been discharged and the gurney ambulance would be here within the hour. She then gave me a clear plastic bag stuffed with my clothes. I eagerly put on a wrinkled bra and slip. My t-shirt and skirt matched. Both were wrinkled, as were my slippers. It was an appropriate outfit for going home. I passed all the vital sign tests and was asked by the nurse, “On a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest, how do you rate your JOY?”
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