Monday, June 16, 2014

The Night the Living Room Shrunk

It was much improved from when we had stuff packed and stacked in preparation for moving into the Arizona house, when half the living room space was taken up. We could still move through easily enough back then, and keeping it was not only cheaper than a storage unit, it beat moving it all twice. There were/are still boxes cluttering up part of it now, as Steve and I have been packing up more of the library to haul down this October, and they were stacked both on and in front of the sofa, much to Fred's disappointment. He loves to stretch out along the couch, but was now limited to half of its length. It's the softest spot in the house for him.  But looking around, other than that and the usual surface clutter, the living room seemed to have plenty of space.

Until, suddenly, there was none.

Monday night I had just been home from work long enough to change into PJs, empty my lunch cooler, put up my feet, and turn on the TV in preparation of picking something to watch. Steve stumbled into the living room, set down his tea, looked around, and went back to his room for what I saw later was his cell phone. From the way he was moving and his expression, plus his lack of communication, I knew he was in pain.

That didn't surprise me. He had been all that day. Not the knees so much this time. Just hurting all over, enough for a pain pill, and later, two.  He'd indicated that afternoon on the phone that when these timed out without effect, he was gong to switch to a Percoset, though I found out later he'd not taken one.

As he sat down, he popped a nitro pill,  looked over at me and finally spoke. "I think it's time to call the boys." That puzzled me momentarily. "The boys" was his expression for the dogs, back when Koda was still with us, before our second dog was female. And why call them? Both were right here with us. He couldn't mean his sons, could he? That made even less sense  in the current context. I barely had time to puzzle that out before he spoke into his cell, "I need an ambulance." If that wasn't my clue, the sight of him popping a second nitro pill told me what was going on. (I'd thought the first was his beta-blocker, looking just like mine and much like the nitro.)

We have great response in our town. Before he finished his call the first of our first responders was knocking on the front door, letting himself in past a wildly barking Ellie. Paul came out and removed her to his room. Placid Fred got to stay next to his master. By the time Ellie was gone, three more first responders had entered. I think we wound up with 5 in all, but it became hard to keep track.  There was equipment spread out in the center of the floor, they were questioning Steve, me, and their dispatcher, heading back out either for more equipment or better (quieter) communication out of the hubbub, asking me to show them his prescriptions collection, later going back and bagging them up to take along to the ER.

"The boys" get younger all the time. When asked how the pressure on his chest felt, Steve used a Sherman tank metaphor to illustrate the weight. One of them actually had to ask what that meant: "Is that heavy?"

Steve's met most of them. He was supposed to be still while they were taking an EKG, though they still asked him questions. Since they seemed to be ignoring their own instructions to him, he did too, by introducing me to as many of them as he could. Each went something like, "And this is _____, he's the one I was telling you about ________ and he lives right over (points) that way." It's not just that he's had to call them before. When he sees one of them while he's out and about, he stops to chat. And even with that Sherman tank sitting on his chest and all the questions about his health history, long and short term, and "Does it hurt when I press here? How about here?", Steve is introducing me to The Boys.

Gotta love the guy.

I'm just trying to keep Fred out of everybody's way instead of trying to climb up in Steve's lap, answer different questions being thrown by multiple people at once, watch them move the boxes that were stacked on the floor in front of the couch to the remaining space on the seat of the couch to make more floor room (poor Fred), wondering how many people are in there now, squeeze past the bottleneck to locate his pills so the guy doing the paperwork could list them all, marvel that the gurney actually made it into the house past the cars lined up on the driveway where little room was left for anything to pass, along with another two attendants, listen to one guy repeat his complaint that something's batteries were dead, inform a couple of the guys who've been here over the years that what they think they remember about Steve was really from when Daddy lived here and was on 24-hour oxygen....

Whew! Yep, that noise and chaos was making the living room really shrink!

At one point when the nitro still wasn't taking effect, Steve asked should he take the third that he was told was allowed if necessary by the original prescribing doctor. They had to consult over their radios, and the answer came back about 5 minutes later that he should follow his original doctor's instructions. So he popped a third. About 7-8 minutes later somebody else sent instructions over the radio that the third pill was not to be taken. Too late. Steve suggested he might be able to recover is if they wanted him to throw up. They started to take that as a sign that he was feeling nauseated, but he quickly explained it was humor, not a new symptom.

Eventually Steve was loaded for transport, minus his shoes. They were right there, would have slipped on his feet easily, but no. So I started compiling things to take to the hospital when I followed behind in my car. Shoes, the book he was reading, wallet... wait, the ambulance hadn't left yet and he'd need his ID and insurance cards, so I sent Paul out with that. Then I changed back into "real" clothes and added my stuff to the pile, but not until the deputy left. I'm not sure when he popped in, but he needed address information after the rest of the crowd left. Eventually I got out of there too, with Paul promising to take care of the dogs' night routines before he went to bed. It was now my bedtime as I left for the 16 mile jaunt to the hospital. Who knew when I'd really hit my pillow?

I had to stop on my way out, seeing a familiar face. Patty, known from the city council and for helping take care of Daddy, had walked over from her neighborhood to see what was happening after the ambulance had mistakenly gone to her neighborhood first. Same street name, just a different leg of it. I filled her in briefly, and headed out. That's life in a small town.

I'm going to skip all the parts in the ER, including biting my tongue so as not to annoy Steve's doctor when he let it be known what a right wing wacko and Bill O'Reilly fan he was politically, and skip to the diagnosis. It wasn't a heart attack. There was no trace of the enzymes they look for, and the EKG was completely normal. Since the nitro finally eased the pain, they think it was an esophageal spasm. Apparently nitro only effects heart and esophageal tissues. Eliminate one, the other is all that's left. He needs to check in with his primary care doc. And by 2AM we were finally home. I turned off my alarm just before the head hit the pillow. I presume Steve did the same, except he doesn't set his alarm in the first place.

It was lovely walking through an empty living room, aside from a pair of welcoming pooches.

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