Paramedics Come Calling

Confession: I am sitting at my desk writing when only a week ago I was attended to by an ambulance and paramedics for the sudden onset of what the ER doctor diagnosed as pneumonia. I had no cough, no cold, no illness of any kind. I woke up at 2 a.m. to walk to the bathroom – no symptoms, none. Five hours later – unable to roll over and struggled to get out of bed. What was happening? Heart attack? Following in my father’s faded footsteps? Before I headed to the hospital, I pressed “send” for my column due the next day. Just in case. My daughters declared my priorities out of balance. I smugly disagreed.

I will spare you the details of my misadventure except to say I had no idea pneumonia could present in this manner. I last had the dreaded affliction when I was two years old, and I forgot to take adequate notes, it turns out. Poor planning on my part. The pain and laboured breathing from muscle spasms has been debilitating and frightening at times, but I am on the mend.

I made a few observations while the paramedics were in my house:

1 – the eyes see what they want to see. I like to think my house is always in a reasonable state of “clean and tidy”, but as soon as the strangers entered my home, I noticed everything out of place, including some debris under my table and prints on my window courtesy of little hands, though I like the reminder that Abby was here. While I was hooked up to the portable EKG machine, I saw a cobweb at the edge of the curtain and a few dust bunnies under my sofa. I was surprised, though I must say slightly indifferent to their appearance in the grand scheme of things.

2 – the paramedics asked me personal questions, questions raised from the photos of my grandchildren on the refrigerator to my father’s RCAF Commission, hanging on the wall, from his service in World War II. I know they were attempting to get me to relax for a more accurate blood pressure reading, but they seemed genuinely interested. When they heard of my father’s early death due to arterial thrombosis, they explained that many pilots from the war flying at higher altitudes in unpressurized aircraft would have suffered a similar fate as he. I found that oddly comforting, a risk he would have taken for the greater good.

3 – ambulances are shiny noisy things that attract the interest of just about everyone, especially neighbours who promptly came to the door to check on my status. Their actions were driven by kind concern rather than anything less.

4 – we never give a lot of thought to those services we don’t require on most of our days, assuming our health care system is a well-oiled machine, which it is not, and we never give enough thought to where we keep important information and who has knowledge of the specific details as to the “where” of said information, and maybe it really is time to do some of that Swedish death cleaning.

I’ve been restricted the last week, and the lack of movement and productivity drives me mad. I’ve done my best to go with the flow and follow the sage advice to “be where my feet are”. How I spend the hours at night unable to sleep is to call on my memories, that many of you are part of, the list a long one. The old memories of Lori and I cruising town from the A&W to the end of Scott Street on a never-ending cycle in my dad’s car, solving all our problems with shared laughter. Galloping behind Wayne and Earl and wishing my pony could find a new gear in speed and win just one race. Being allowed to buy a small white bag filled with warm cashews from Ray S Holmes. Watching my dad hurl hay bales onto the wagon while I was entrusted with the serious grown-up job of driving the tractor and smiling to myself that my dad was the strongest man in the world. Rushing into Annie’s arms and always finding love there. Wandering the woods of my childhood farm and listening to the trees whisper to me that I had not a worry in the world. The new memory of Shawne sharing a year’s worth of letters with me that made me laugh and cry and feel I was back in Fort Frances again. Sending a virtual wave to Blair on his birthday. Lor, Susie, and Janey cheering with Sisu Support from there to here, reminding me we are never alone in our challenges.

wendistewart@live.ca