Blog 48: Emergency

I had been through all this business of travelling by ambulance to the hospital several times before.  It had happened on three or four occasions when Bill had had strokes and at other times when Bill had slipped into those coma-like stupors.  I knew the procedure.  Once transported, Bill would be given a bed in Emergency, tests would be taken and blood, heart and chest would be cleared.  Then, Bill would recover to be his old self again, the doctors would declare that he had probably had a stroke, they’d test to make sure that he could walk using the walker, and we would go home.

And that’s how it seemed to go.  The nurse stuck stickers all over Bill’s body and the wires that went from them to the machine reported that his heart was fine.  They straightened his arm, took blood and determined that all was well in that area too.  They x-rayed his ankle and took out their stethoscopes and listened to his lungs and pronounced that Bill’s chest was clear.

Then, friends arrived to sit with us, Bill brightened up and we ate and laughed and chatted. I put an extra blanket on Bill, wrapped one around my shoulders and made a mental note to bring a cardigan next time.  We reckoned that we would be out of Emergency by four o’clock.

Then they sent Bill for a brain scan.  That was unusual.  Doctors didn’t usually put Bill through that. As a rule, they agreed with that specialist who, eighteen months before, had said:

“I don’t need to see another brain scan.  I know what Bill’s brain looks like and there’s nothing that we can do for old stroke.”

“Maybe they are going to do something for a new stroke,” I thought.

We trundled down to the X-Ray Department. They put Bill’s head in the tunnel, put a heavy apron on me and left the room to press their buttons.

Four o’clock came and went but we were still there in Emergency.

Then, the results of the brain scan arrived. The doctor, the social worker and the nursing sister huddled together over the x-ray, deep in discussion.

“Could you step out into the corridor for a minute?” the Doctor asked me.

I stepped out.

“Now, I just want to ask you,” the Doctor went on, “If it comes to the point, do you want Bill fed intravenously?”

“No!” I answered, wide-eyed. “But we won’t have any trouble getting Bill to eat. He eats quite well. He might miss a course of a meal, here and there, but generally no, he has no trouble eating!”

“Good!” said the Doctor.  “Now, I just have to ask you this. Do you want Bill resuscitated?”

“Well, no!” I answered, thinking of those last few years when Bill had been forced to live life in a prison of haze, watching everything important and dear to him slip away. “No!”

I have never been good at reading between the lines.

I remember when I was in Teachers’ College in 1958. I was seventeen.  The biology lecturer had told us the story of the life cycle of the rooster and the hen. With but a few inferences to guide us, she expected that we students would make the connection between that story of copulating birds and the human experience. The boys sitting up the back of the lecture room had all made the connection. You could tell by their sniggers. But I remained in the dark.  That’s how I was in 1958 and that’s how I was at that moment in time in 2012 in the Emergency Department of the hospital.

“Just a few questions,” I told our friends, re-entering the cubicle.

“Do I want Bill tube-fed?  And do I want him resuscitated?  No, to both!”

Our friends looked at me intensely.

Maybe they had greater understanding than I did.

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