A couple of days ago we were at the hospital visiting my brother-in-law, who had undergone surgery two days before. He was having a tough time, as the surgery was extensive, and they had him on a lot of medications. We were there to give him moral support and comfort.

I was sitting in a chair at the foot of the hospital bed, engaging in light conversation. All of a sudden, I got a stomach cramp. I told myself firmly, “Not now!”. I shifted in my chair to get more comfortable. Then I began to feel nauseous. I began to count backward from 100, trying to get into a meditative state. As I was counting backwards, I looked around the stark hospital room. My brother-in-law, Eddie, dressed in the ubiquitous hospital gown with the blue pattern on white, was hooked up to all kinds of I.V. tubes – Saline solution, morphine drip, catheters – he looked like the bionic man. I felt at that moment somewhat divided from him, as is always the case when the relatively well come face-to-face with the relatively unwell.

Now the nausea was beginning to get more intense. I began to feel very warm. I began to sweat profusely. I bent down in my chair, once again trying to find out how best to get comfortable. I vaguely heard my husband, Art, ask if I was okay. I mumbled, “I don’t feel very good”. Someone said, “Put your head between your knees”, which I did. Meanwhile, Art went out to the hallway to get a nurse.

Next thing I knew, a couple of nurses were in my face, telling me to sit up and asking me questions. I began to vomit. Someone put a bed pan in front of me. Once I had vomited, I began to feel a little better. I heard myself say, “I’m okay.” But the nurse said, “We’d better send you down to emergency so they can take a look at you.” I kept apologizing – to Eddie, to my husband, to my mother-in-law, to my father-in-law. It had not been my intention that day to add to everyone’s troubles. Had I had any inkling that I was at all under the weather, I never would have come to the hospital. And I was embarrassed. I mean – here I was making a scene, when Eddie was the one who truly needed attention.

Well, they put me on a gurney and wheeled me down to Emergency. Art stayed with me. A reasonable facsimile of Doogie Howser, a very nice young man, came in and questioned me. It seems they were afraid I was having a heart attack. Someone asked me if I was pregnant, which was the comic relief of the day. I had to take off my sweater and replace it with a hospital gown. As it turned out, they took some blood from me (they had trouble getting me to bleed, and I thought I would have another episode just from all the prodding). They took a chest X-ray. They gave me an EKG. Then, they decided to give me some I.V. fluids. Finally, I could see my reflection in the glass of the double emergency doors. I was a patient. There was no mistaking it – the hospital gown, the I.V. It had all happened so fast, so unexpectedly. For several hours I lay there, dextrose or saline solution dripping in to my veins, my name written on a big chalkboard. Nurses and technicians and Doogie dropping by every so often to reassure me that they were just waiting for results of all the tests.

Finally, at about 7:30 in the evening, the results came back. All was within normal limits. I could dress and go home. The I.V. was taken out. The official diagnosis was a “pre-syncopal episode”. The reason, basically, “who knows?”. The hospital gown came off and my sweater was returned to me. I got down off the gurney and walked out with my husband and my in-laws. For me, this time, it had been a five-hour ordeal, but it was over. Eddie was still up there on the sixth floor.

Sometimes odd things occur in our lives, and we are left to make sense out of them. I think maybe I was over-identifying with Eddie, and maybe that was the beginning of my feeling woozy. Or maybe I ate something that wasn’t quite right. Or maybe it was the smell of disinfectant in the hospital. Or maybe it was a combination of everything. But this time, I was okay.

It was a reminder to me that our lives can turn on a dime. Here we are, planning for our futures. Putting money aside for our “golden years”. We can’t help but see the future stretched out before us like a long, unending road, dotted with pleasant memories, holidays, grandchildren, perhaps travel, retirement, gray hair, learning a new language, hard-won recognition of our accomplishments, and the list could go on endlessly. But there is a Yiddish expression that translates to, “Man plans. God laughs”. We are allowed the illusion of having control over our lives, and within the larger framework, to some extent, we do. But the Big Picture is beyond our mortal control. And a little reminder such as I had the other day is a blessing. It forces me to remember that every day is precious. Every breath is precious. Our time here is limited, and we are definitely not in charge. Someone or something else is running the show. And whoever or whatever It is – It’s got a great sense of humor.

 Category: Robin's Nest

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