Monday, September 27, 2010

Some things you just never forget

I used to take pride in easily committing friends’ birthdays to memory, but these days, Facebook does all of the remembering for me. Recently one such Facebook reminder popped up and along with it, a memory of how I forgot her birthday two years ago, which was uncommon for me. But then again, what happened the day of her birthday that year was not very common either.

Two years ago, around this time, My Guy was complaining of chest pains and a fever. After days of nagging discomfort, he finally decided to see the doctor. I was in the office when he drove himself to the physician’s office. I was also eight months pregnant.

He called me in the middle of the day to report that the doctor was not comfortable with his symptoms and had to run some tests. He assured me there was no need to be alarmed, and so I waited for the next phone call, which came several minutes later. It wasn’t what I had expected, or rather, hoped to hear. Upon seeing the results, the doctor ordered an ambulance for My Guy so they could rush him to the ER of a hospital two miles down the road from them. He thought it was silly and offered to drive there himself but the doctor, alarmed by the levels of XXXX that his heart was producing, refused to allow him. (Forgive my lack of details with the medical terms. I was a little too distraught to memorize them.)

The doctor expressed that she was surprised he wasn’t having a heart attack at that moment. Not the kind of news I'd expected to hear. Not when I was eight months pregnant. 

However, I was surprised at how calm I was with the news – maybe because My Guy seemed fine to me. Nothing changed - his voice and his tone remained unperturbed. He assured me again that they were probably overreacting and taking unnecessary precautions because that’s just what they do. We made plans for me to pick up the car by the doctor’s office and swing by the hospital to pick him up after work. He maintained that they were just running tests at the ER and that he would keep me posted. So I followed our plan as discussed, except after that call, I never heard from him again.

When I went approached the hospital receptionist, she could not find his name for the ER. My anxiety grew with each moment as she scanned the computer in front of her. A few minutes later, she announced, “It says he’s on the second floor.”

I followed her instructions, but I couldn’t find him. I tried calling him on the phone for what felt like the millionth time. No answer. I returned to the receptionist, and that’s when she picked up the phone to make inquiries about his whereabouts.

At that point, the last time I spoke to My Guy was about four hours ago. While I didn’t overtly show my panic, she must have seen the desperation and fear in my eyes. And my protruding belly. Eight months pregnant. I didn’t have to plead with her to look for him. She knew.

She had me sit close by in the waiting area while she conducted her search. A line formed in front of her, each visitor or patient with their own questions, but it didn’t faze her. She multi-tasked deftly, tending to their needs on one side and holding on to the phone on the other. In the meantime, I continued to try his phone. Occasionally, the receptionist would make eye contact with me and indicate that she was still on it. My clammy hands found my belly and there they lay, unsure and shaking. I wanted to calm the restless baby inside me, it’ll be ok, it’ll be ok, it’ll be ok running in circles like a mantra, or a desperate plea, in my mind.

The what ifs rose from the pit of my stomach - What if something dreadful has happened? What if he doesn’t make it? What if I’m too late? What if…what if…

All this while, a shadow, dark and ominous, hovers above me: Eight months pregnant.

Half an hour and what felt like an eternity later, the receptionist motioned me over, cautious with her words: “He’s in surgery in the cardiac ward right now.”

I felt my heart stop. The words felt surreal. Surgery? Cardiac? My Guy? He’s only 25! What’s she talking about?!

She continued, “You will find him in surgery room X.  In fact, they’re just finishing up, so they should be out any moment now.” While it wasn’t the news I had hoped for, it was news nonetheless. Better than nothing. Better than the questions that hung in the air.

At that moment, even in my panic, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for her. This lady, this girl in her mid-twenties, was relentless in her search on my behalf, and she found him. She was also the only person in that cold, grey building that filled me with warmth. Unfortunately, with news like that, I could only muster my profuse gratitude with garbled words before running to find My Guy.

I showed up outside the surgery room just as the surgeon appeared, and he explained that My Guy had an angiogram. I’ve heard of the term but never knew what it meant. It sounded worse than what it was. But I quickly learned then that it’s a diagnostic procedure that involves inserting a catheter into the femoral artery, which is then threaded up to the affected area. Next they inject dye so they can visualize the inside of the blood vessels. (I don’t remember him saying all this – I had to google it, so forgive any misrepresentations here).

The surgeon confirmed he was fine, but because of the puzzling levels of XXX, they needed to keep him in the cardiac ward for a few days. Just in case. Then they wheeled him out and I saw him laying there in a daze, still trying to assure me that everything was fine, I finally burst into tears. Relieved. Confused. Happy. Scared. All of the emotions that swirled in torrents inside erupted to the surface.

I stayed at the hospital that night, unable to leave his side. After those long, ugly, tormenting hours of separation and the not knowing, I just couldn’t bear the thought of having to go through that again. At least there, I would be aware of exactly what’s happening, even if I couldn’t help him feel better. So there we were in his room together as the machines, chemicals and doctors took turns stabilizing his health. A soon-to-be family of three cramped into a little room, exhausted.

Four days and many tests later, they discharged him just in time - on the day of our baby shower. They never figured out what was wrong. Back to the not knowing again. How in the world could he prevent a reoccurrence when he doesn’t know what causes it in the first place? But we didn’t have the time to ponder those questions. There was a party waiting for us. That night, we dove into the merriment, thankful for the food, family, friends and laughter that surrounded us. There were also many gifts. But as I held the tiny baby clothes and soft blankets in my hands, ones that would soon become a part of the fabric of our lives, I couldn’t help but be painfully and acutely aware of just how fragile that fabric is.