Saturday, July 16, 2005

Hospital tales 3: The ambulance ride

When life sends you into a tailspin, tell the tales.

I’m worried as they wheel me into the ambulance for the hour and fifteen minute ride to St. Francis in Peoria.. What if part of the blood clot breaks lose and makes a mad dash for my heart, lungs, or brain? I’ll be a goner.

“Can I use my cell phone?” I ask the EMTs.

“Sure,” they said. “We don’t have anything on board that it’ll interfere with.” I felt like a free man because I could use my cell phone without sneaking.

I called my parents first. I thought of starting off cheerily, “Hey, I’m calling from the back of an ambulance.” But that didn’t seem like a good idea. At 81 and 77 they’ve had enough shocks in life. I reminded Dad that I had told him about my sore leg the day before and then told them about the blood clot. We were several minutes into the call before I communicated that I was calling from the back of an ambulance.

“It’s a good thing you are strong, Richard,” Mom said. Wow. Mom thinks I’m strong. I never knew that.

The head of the stretcher could be tilted up. Good thing or my back would have been screaming by the time we got to Peoria. The tilt also helped me look out the back window. Once stopped at a red light a young man pulled up right behind us. I wondered if he could see me. I thought of waving to him to see if he would wave back.

After talking to my parents I called my daughters Hannah and Heidi and my son Jon. Once in awhile my anxiety would begin to rise like a muddy creek in a rain storm. To keep at bay the worries that the rough ride was going to shake lose a blood clot and kill me, I concentrated on the conversation of the moment,

When I talked with Heidi she was in a motel in Atlanta writing an outline for her master thesis study. Her Ethiopian husband was a mile away enjoying watching a soccer match between two Ethiopian teams.

A nurse practitioner student, she would like to do a study on why pregnant women at risk of acquiring AIDS refuse to get AIDS testing. I knew she’d eventually like to work with AIDS patients in Ethiopia.

“Design the study for Ethiopia,” I said. “It’ll be a challenge to find someone to collect the data for you but that’s where your heart is so go for it. It’ll be a challenge but if you work your connections I bet you can pull it off.”

She’s done the literature search and she knows of a similar study in Los Angeles and one other county but none in Ethiopia.

I had one other suggestion. Design the study to uncover the reasons pregnant women in Ethiopia choose to be tested or to not be.
Heidi immediately recognized the value. Such a study could teach health workers how to encourage more at risk pregnant women in Ethiopia to be tested for AIDS.

After talking with my kids I called Lynn Reha at Plow Creek to make the final arrangements for hosting another Mennonite church the next day. “Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll pull it off.” It was like she was singing to my soul.

Talking with Lynn and each of my family was much more fun than thinking about a bit of my blood clot breaking loose and making a mad dash for my heart, lungs, or brain.

I am a blessed man.

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