A Front Row Seat

Saturday, March 17, 2018: According to the newspaper, this was the 6th annual Leprechaun 7K, benefitting the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer). The parade involved nearly 3,000 runners and walkers and 150 volunteers. It started right on time, a little after 9:30 just as the newspaper article had stated.

Earlier that morning, I’d noticed the orange cones placed fifty feet apart all along the road. So much for my plan to run errands since the road going past my building would be closed all morning. So, I got comfortable in my pajamas, with my cup of chai tea, and prepared to be entertained by this menagerie of mankind passing right outside my window.

First, a white pick-up truck slowly drove down the street, led closely behind by a tall, slim man dressed in a bright green, sparkly body suit, green sneakers and a shamrock shaped cap. Running at full speed, he looked as though he was taking his position as the leader very seriously.

After a smattering of single runners, the clusters grew into a cavalcade of all shapes, sizes and ages of sprinters wearing green shirts, funny socks and hats. It was easy to see that for some, a good bit of work had been put into designing just the right outfit.

Others were more generic with lots of stripped socks or a perfunctory, silly hat. It was a sea of green tee shirts scarves, tiaras and ruffled tutu’s. My personal favorite was the man skipping down the roadway with a lovely, pink tutu on his head.

As the parade progressed, the slower participants came by who were going at a leisurely pace. A combination of walking and running was common and clearly some were really just out for a walk and some social time. Even with my windows closed I could hear the laughter and chatter of the crowd.

Pretty soon there were rows of four and five going down the road in a line. One mom and her very young child stepped onto the grass so he could catch his breath and take off his jacket. The sun was out in force and it was getting warmer. Some runners stopped to rest or take a quick stretch before forging ahead.

Once the runners thinned out, the walkers came into view. Here were those with younger kids and babies in strollers. As the slower pace proceeded, the white pick-up then appeared going in the other direction. It was quickly followed by the tall, slim man in the green body suit, still the leader and going at a good clip. Both lanes of the street were full of runners, for and five deep, going in both directions.

As the crowd thinned, a yellow school bus came slowly down the street signaling the end of the parade. I noticed people were riding in the bus. How nice, I thought; the school bus was a way for anyone who couldn’t walk or run to still participate.  I kept watching until the school bus passed by on its return trip. All was done by 11:15. A police car with lights on made the final sweep and the orange cones were kicked to the curb and picked up later.

It was as though nothing had happened. No one in sight and not a scrap of litter anywhere. What a lovely community event. And all over America similar parades and community events are happening. Everyone is Irish for one day at least

I had a great time in my front row seat, watching everyone having a great time and helping a good cause. I had to wonder what these hardy and not so hardy runners and walkers would be doing for the rest of the day. For some, it’s probably nap time. Or, whether Irish or not, I’ll bet Leif’s Lucky Town or O’Donoghue’s Irish Pub was busy serving green beer!



14 Hours in the ER

February 5, 2018: I knew the drill: the arrival of two trucks and four EMT’s who bring in the stretcher. They’d look me over, do what they could and then make the decision. Off to the hospital.

One EMT I remembered from another time because of his tattoos. Both arms from wrist to elbow were completely covered with a solid tattoo. I’d find out later these are sleeve tattoos. Both arms were covered in what looked like a nature scene. Why would such a clean cut nice looking young man do that to himself. It’s funny what oddball details are  remembered while what seems, at the time,  to be a life-threatening emergency.

This was about 11:00pm on a Monday night. I’d awakened from sleep with an asthma attack. After taking two puffs of albuterol, things began to get better. And then they didn’t. Albuterol doses can only be taken four hours apart. And I was suddenly developing strange symptoms I’d never had before. I was unable to stand, felt weak and anxious, couldn’t breathe and could only see outlines of the EMT’s along with black dots in my field of vision. I was about to faint and felt safe once I was on the stretcher.

As soon as I’m in the ambulance a flurry of activity begins including oxygen, IV’s and blood pressure. Tattoo man was worried when he was unable to get a blood pressure on me. He said at check in that he thought I was having a heart attack. But not so.

Each time I have to take the ambulance to the ER I learn more about the health care system. This time I saw more parts of the ER’s inner workings than ever before. I got wheeled around from the regular rooms to triage. I’d never been in triage before and didn’t even know it existed.

It was scary because I didn’t think I was in that bad of shape for triage. The nurse would explain that it’s a section used for short term cases. Like those Saturday night bar fight incidents where patients are cleared and out quickly. Like cleared medically before going to jail. He said it’s used more on weekends. I was there because the ER was packed and they had no other place for me. I would spend several hours in triage.

While I’m stabilizing the nurse noticed pink spots on both of my calves. As we observed the changes and movement of what looks like bruises, the nurse commented that it looked like the sisterhood of the traveling hives. It’s good to have a laugh in the midst of all this.

Later, a nurse or doctor would tell me I had symptoms of anaphylaxis. Right then I had no idea what that was. I’d learn later about the allergy attack, the different symptoms involved and the new vocabulary I’d have to learn.  And of course, the epi-pen.  But that’s another story.

The ER’s hurried pace and the noise felt like a war zone in a third world country. Or a mash unit. The hospital was at full capacity due to the flu season and many of the doctors and nurses were wearing face masks. So, began the usual round of staff who quickly entered and left after completing their small task.

First the nurse, then the resident and then the attending. Each time they asked the same: what’s going on. I got it that they needed to hear the story directly from me to figure out what’s wrong. I tried not to become annoyed with having to repeat the whole scenario over and over.

Once I was stable with the oxygen and IV’s going it was time to wait. About 3:30am the attending returned to say he didn’t feel right sending me home; they’d poured lots of meds into me, he explained, and if this came back after the meds wore off, I’d be back.   Better for me to stay a while. That’s good because how would I manage a ride home at 3:30 in the morning?

He also explained since the hospital was full, they’d move me to what they called a boarding room, ER rooms that were now mini hospital rooms. He explained that I’m an admitted inpatient and they would move me to a real hospital room as soon as one was available.

The nurse from triage moved me to the boarding room which was very small with no amenities; the bathroom was across the hall. My door had a small window so I passed the time watching the steady stream of stretchers pass through.

Police and security guards were everywhere. My nurse stepped out into the hall for a moment. I heard her talking to a policeman about having something thrown at her. At one point there was a line of stretchers outside my door at a full stop waiting to get checked in down the hall. A stretcher with a man surrounded by four police officers was stopped for several minutes outside my door. All this on a Monday night.

Around 6:00am a nurse showed up and told me she was my nurse until 7:00 and was there anything I needed. She gave me permission to eat so I was happy. Then after 7:00 a new round began. New nurse.  New resident. New attending. I told my story to each once again.

Next, it’s the hospitalist with their Intern in tow. Hospitalists are doctors who cover all inpatients until discharge. In the meantime, I ordered breakfast between having ex-rays and a CAT scan. When I asked, why a cat scan, the nurse said they wanted to be sure I didn’t have a blood clot. That’s why I love teaching hospitals. They look at everything. It would take several hours for my blood pressure to get near normal. The pink spots were lessening. I was starting to feel better.

The hospitalist said I was ready for discharge but had to see one more doctor. That began another process. More waiting. Meantime, I saw a pharmacist to discuss my medications. Then I waited. Another doctor and her intern appeared to reaffirm I’m ready to go home.

My niece came to pick me up and was surprised when a police officer instead of a clerk checked her in and sent her to my room. It had been a challenge to tell her when to come so she didn’t show up before all was done and then waste a lot of time sitting around. The best laid plans didn’t work too well. We waited forever for the final paperwork and the nurse to give his instructions. Finally, I was wheeled to the door and into the car.

Each doctor had responded to my off-hand comment about their busyness saying that I should never think I shouldn’t come in if I need to and that they don’t discharge until they’re sure the patient was ready. And that’s why I love teaching hospitals. When the attending said he was keeping me at 3:30am I was glad. Now at 1:00 pm when they said I could go home, I’m also glad.



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