Sunday, August 22, 2010

I think I set a World Record For Almost-Dying: Part Six

I almost died twice in one week. This is part six of that story.


Part 1.

Part 2.
Part 3.

Part 4.
Part 5.

When I suggested that we go to the emergency room, that set off all kinds of warning alerts in Sweetie, who is already on high alert at all times for any kind of possible trouble.

"Trouble" can, in Sweetie's world, be almost anything -- it could be not getting the garage door closed quickly enough as we pull out of the driveway, it could be that one car that she's not sure I saw when we were going to turn left (a car I didn't see, even though I told her that I had). With so many constant reminders of the potential for disasters big and small in the world, you'd think Sweetie would be ready when really big stuff hits, and you'd be 100% right.

"Get in the car," she said. "Should I call 911?"

I was herding the Babies! downstairs to the garage, doubled over just a little, as she said that. Fearing that my decision to go to the ER might be taken as a sign of weakness, I'd decided to put myself in charge of putting Mr F and Mr Bunches into the car. And to avoid any further loss of status in the world of Men Who Must Never Feel Pain Or Fear, I opted against 911.

"No," I said, kind of weakly. "We'll be fine."

Mr F and Mr Bunches were blithely unaware of the gravity of the situation -- which I still assumed was the fallout from The Great Bee Attack-- and paying no mind to Daddy's difficulty breathing and walking, were meandering through the garage, glasses of milk in hand and looking at things. Mr F found an interesting stick, and Mr Bunches wanted to go look at the golf clubs.

"No you don't," I kept saying, and then tried to encourage them with inspirational words: "Let's just get in the car, boys."

When they didn't do that, as Sweetie was grabbing keys and her purse upstairs, I picked them both up, one in each arm: 90 pounds of nearly-four-year-old (one still holding the interesting stick, which he interestingly waved very near my eye) and carried them to the car. Wrestling one door open, I managed to get them inside.

"Down." I told them. Breathe breathe breathe "Sit."

It was while buckling them in that things got even more a little worse, and I hadn't even thought that was possible. The bottom sort of dropped out of my body's ability to function, just for a second -- things went kind of spinny and I sucked in my breath and it felt like someone had punched me in the chest... from the inside. With Mr F and Mr Bunches sitting, but not yet buckled in, and Sweetie due out any second, I made a significant decision:

I called 911.

I dialed the number, watched my cell phone for a second, and then stood up a little, and decided it wasn't so bad after all and hit end.

The 911 operator called back as I buckled in Mr F, and then buckled in Mr Bunches, and then climbed into the car to await Sweetie. The car seats were in my car that day -- The Boy had borrowed the other car and switched the seats -- and so I had to sit in the back, between the Babies! because the back doors in my car don't have safety locks and Mr F will sometimes take it upon himself to open the door.

"This is 911, did you call?" the operator asked.

I sat down in the car and said "Yes, I called. I thought I needed an ambulance but my wife is going to drive me to the ER," I told the woman.

"So you're all right?" the lady said, or something to that effect. To be fair, she might have said "So you don't need an ambulance?" I wasn't really paying attention because somebody was trying to strangle my lungs.

I said something back to the effect of we didn't need 911 and then Sweetie was in the car and we were off on the second hasty drive to the hospital in less than a week -- this one taking place right at the edge of what passes for Madison's rush hour, a "rush hour" full of traffic jams that wouldn't happen if there were more than two streets leading downtown.

Sweetie drove aggressively, peppering me every few seconds with questions like "Are you okay?" and "Are you alive?" I assured her I was fine, and alive, each time, while giving her helpful tips in between attempts to catch my breath. "Go around these guys," I'd say, not sure whether there was a way to go around them at all but willing Sweetie to find one.

Every ride to the hospital, no matter how serious, should include with it two four-year-old boys, though, because whatever else is going on, they'll provide you a little comic relief along the way, and if you're going to die, wouldn't you want a quick laugh to ease them into the afterworld? I know I would, and that's what Mr F and Mr Bunches did.

Mr F -- the quieter of the two-- just thought the whole ride was marvelous. He kept grabbing my hand, from where it sat on top of the adrenaline pen they'd given me for the bee stings. I had my hand there because every few seconds, I'd wonder should I use it?

That's one of the problems with putting people like me in charge of our own emergency decisions. They'd discharged me from the hospital with this prescription for a pen, and they'd said "If you ever get stung by a bee again, or otherwise have a bad allergic reaction, jab this into your leg" and they'd shown me how, but they didn't provide any guidelines on what, exactly, is a bad allergic reaction or how bad it has to be or anything like that. So as we drove along to the hospital -- driving, really, in nominal form only, because even people who are seriously beginning to worry that they might be dying can't make any headway getting to downtown Madison on a Friday morning -- I wondered, over and over, is this a bad allergic reaction? Should I jab myself? It seemed pretty bad, but what would I be allergically reacting to? The chili dogs we'd had for dinner last night?

So I didn't do it -- good thing, I think, given how it all turned out -- and instead let Mr F take my hand periodically and try to bite my finger, or make me tickle him. He likes being tickled, and he'd make me tickle him and then giggle and throw his head back and laugh, and I tried to oblige him.

Mr Bunches, on the other side of me, opted to narrate the trip by interspersing lines from movies with little non sequiturs, and, at one critical point, making a major announcement.

When Mr Bunches has to go to the bathroom -- has to go number twos -- he'll let us know. He'll come up to us and say, in a very solemn, very serious voice, what he said that morning, as I tried to focus on tickling Mr F while I tried to also focus on breathing. We were paused at a red light and Mr Bunches announced to me, with his wide eyes and deadpan look:

"It's a poop."

I didn't know what to tell him and couldn't talk real well at that point, but he did make me laugh, at how serious he was and at the fact that for the moment, I'd given a lot of thought to his needs over mine, and I said "Okay, we'll be there in a minute." That minute might have been too long, as a minute or so later he looked down at his lap and then back up and said "Bye bye."

He hadn't had an accident, though; he'd been mistaken, as Mr Bunches sometimes is, and I took that for an omen and sat up a little straighter as we rounded the last corner around campus and the hospital was in sight. We can all be mistaken about how serious things might be, I thought, and focused on breathing right, and tried to ignore how much I was sweating and how my chest now felt like an aluminum can that had been crumpled into the trash. I'm sure it's nothing, I told myself. We pulled up to the ER.

"You go inside and I'll come in with the boys," Sweetie said.

I'm sure it's nothing, I thought, and walked as straight and tall as I could into the ER for the second time in six days, and announced to the nurse "I'm having a lot of trouble breathing and my chest hurts."

Next: Part Seven: Why you must ALWAYS lie to doctors.

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