when the husband complained of chest pains a few hours before bedtime, i gave him an antacid and told him to man up. when he woke me at one a.m. and said we needed to go to the hospital... "NOW" i was out the door in a flash. driving ninety miles an hour, through the deserted streets of los angeles, got my heart pounding. i was only praying that the same adrenalin would keep his heart pounding as well.
at the emergency room i knew to say the magic words - chest pains - and we were taken immediately. once those steel, sliding doors closed behind us, we entered a never, never land, not to emerge for seventeen hours.
here is what i learned that long night into day. emergency room workers are marvelous, kind, patient and efficient. here is also what i learned. the person complaining of chest pains gets a bed and warm blankets, the healthy driver gets a plastic chair. there are no windows in an emergency room and as two a.m. turned to five a.m. and night turned into day i lost all sense of time. while the husband, hooked up to every machine known to man was poked and prodded and tested, he also got to sleep. for hours on end i watched his chest rise and fall. i kept vigil with the machines that spelled out his pulse and blood pressure and heart rate. when he opened his eyes i smiled. when he fell back to sleep i huddled, as best as one could huddle, in my plastic chair, shivered with cold and lack of shut eye, and tried not to be terrified.
the rest of the story is long and boring. after seventeen hours he was released on the proviso that he return a day later for an angiogram. that test determined that his heart was fine but he may need to have his gall bladder removed. i can live with that. after all, who needs a gall bladder anyway.
seventeen hours, with nothing to do but worry, taught me a lot. i learned that after 42 years of marriage, his heart and my heart are truly one. i learned that if his heart were broken, mine would break. i learned that they can take every organ in his body and he will still be mine and i learned that the next time he wakes me for a trip to the ER, i will take a blanket.