It’s now day two of our cross-country road trip bringing my mom (aka Chiquita or Grandma Chiquita) from her home in Chicago to Pittsburgh to live near us. We packed up our rooms at the Holiday Inn Express and headed over to the lobby to grab some breakfast before we left (ever tried the cinnamon rolls there? FABULOUS!).
While we were sitting at the table, my cell phone rings. It’s my sister. The night before, I had called her, riddled with anxiety about Chiquita’s chest pains.
“We should really get those checked out,” she told me. The ROYAL we.
“Oh, but Mom’s feeling better now,” I said. The sun was out, we were well-rested, it was a new day. Maybe those chest pains were all a bad dream.
“I’ve talked with three different nurses,” she said. (She works with a company that staffs nurses-on-call-by-phone.) “They all said that considering her history and the circumstances, she could be in serious trouble.”
“She hasn’t had anything since last night,” I explained. “I’m sure if it were bad, something else would’ve happened by now.”
“Not necessarily,” my sister replied. “They said she might still be having the heart attack RIGHT NOW. Every minute that goes by, more of her heart could be damaged.”
“Oh, crap.” The anxiety, fear, terror, and dread came rushing back. I looked over my shoulder at Chiquita in the dining room having breakfast with her two granddaughters. They were laughing together.
I didn’t feel much like laughing.
So the next step was to decide: ambulance, or a ride. We decided to try to get to the next major city with a decent hospital, which was Sandusky. We exited the expressway and asked the nice toll booth collector which way the hospital was. I half expected her to call 911 or radio the state police or something. Maybe I’d get busted for elder abuse.
No such luck.
We found the hospital and the emergency room entrance. I took Chiquita in and explained her symptoms. A mess of hospital staff descended upon her: stethoscopes, syringes, blood pressure cuff.
In the meantime, Mr. Hoagie brought the kids in and asked the staff at the desk if there might be a fast food place nearby with a playplace where he could wait with the girls. Being Sandusky, there were four. He picked one and they left, making sure to turn on his cell.
I did my best to update the hospital staff on Chiquita’s myriad health conditions. Where to begin? Coronary artery disease, multiple stents, diabetes, pyodermal gangrenosum (a skin condition), incontinence, obesity….
With each condition I rattled off, their eyes got wider. Apparently it was a wonder she was still kicking!
They took lots of blood and hooked her up to several monitors. Once they’d done that, it was a matter of waiting for the test results.
Nearly two hours after we’d arrived, a doctor appeared to share the test results with us. According to her labs, she HADN’T had a heart attack. This time. But considering her medical profile, he’d typically want to admit her. We explained that we were halfway between her old home and her new one, and unless she was having a medical emergency, we’d rather just get back on the road and promise to see her new doctor when we arrived.
Of course, she didn’t HAVE a new doctor yet, but he didn’t need to know that.
So he sent us off, bending the rules a bit in order to print off her ER medical records for her new doctor. I texted Mr. Hoagie to let him know that we were almost done.
He texted back. Apparently he’d had a bit of an adventure himself. They’d gone to the playplace, and before they were even inside the restaurant (in the vestibule between the two entrance doors), Big Sis had vomited.
So a few minutes later, the minivan pulled up to the ER entrance, and we loaded Chiquita in. Big Sis sat in the back seat, looking pale and tired. We navigated our way back to the expressway. By the time we picked up our toll ticket, Big Sis was asleep.