Friday, May 18, 2012


Luckily Jerry and I have escaped being carted off in an ambulance.  Living in an apartment complex for 55s and older, we see this happening on a regular basis.  From our front porch, we can see the entry to approximately 12 different units of 12 apartments each – and by “see” I mean any ambulance going to any one of those buildings would be parked within our view.
Interestingly, not everybody goes willingly into the ambulance.  Those in dire straits do, and those who have some type of injury – fall, burn, etc. – do.  But it is amazing how many go kicking, screaming and yelling. 

We’ve lived among seniors since we retired 12 years ago, so we feel like we’ve seen just about all there is to see.  And the one thing that still surprises us is that when the paramedics come, they may leave their offices in a hurry and race down the road with sirens at full toot, but once they enter our complex they obey the posted speed limit of 15 mph and simply mosey down the street with only the flashing lights to indicate they are on a mission.  No sirens!
Not only do they not hurry down the street but they don’t hurry getting out of the vehicles either.  The doors slowly open and the firemen amble their way toward the equipment storage.  If a gurney is known to be needed, it is slowly assembled, gloves are carefully affixed by the EMTs or paramedics, and then they saunter off to the correct apartment.  By this time the onlookers are almost chanting “GO!  GO!  GO! GO!” like NASCAR spectators at a race.  All of the looky-loos (and there are always plenty) can’t believe how nonchalant the medical responders are.

We all hope that if we ever have to initiate a 911 call in an emergency, the “A” team will be sent, which of course has the team members who hop out of the vehicle while it is still rolling, don their gloves while they sprint to the apartment and report for duty before we get off the phone with the dispatcher!  We hope that an “A” team actually exists.
I have told the story before about my sister, who at one time when she was alone in the house felt she might be having a heart attack.  She laid down on the couch, phoned 911 and immediately said to the dispatcher, “I will not tell you my problem unless you will assure me that the ambulance will NOT pull up in front of my house with its siren on.” 

My sister and I grew up with our mother always insisting that we NOT make a scene anyplace, anywhere for any reason.  We both took her admonishment to heart and we would have preferred an early death to having our neighbors look at us as we were carted off to an ambulance.  I’m sorry, but she really did a number on us, and when my sister told me this I totally understood her request. 
The dispatcher agreed and set the wheels in motion.  And of course my sister heard them coming, siren and all!  The paramedics thought she should be taken to the hospital and checked out.  As they loaded her onto the gurney she grabbed the old granny-square afghan that she kept on the couch and threw it over her entire body.  Through all the holes in the granny squares she could see her busybody neighbors lining the curbs and sidewalks up and down her street, just as she knew they would be.  For the most part the afghan did the trick.  She did not consider her actions as “making a scene” and I didn’t either.

I came close to my own call for an ambulance when I was in the midst of the gall-bladder pain that ultimately led to my surgery last December.  I had had several of these attacks earlier in the month but had no clue as to what was causing it.  Most lasted about a half-hour and then eased up.  But this one had started at the grocery store early on a Friday morning before Christmas, gotten worse and worse and by noon I knew I needed help. Unable to do anything but pace, I told Jerry I wanted to go to the emergency room.

I don’t recall what he was doing when I announced this, but with the way I was feeling I didn’t think he moved fast enough.  It may have only been 30 seconds after I told him, but to me he didn’t appear to be taking me very seriously; that is, I didn’t see him throwing his clothes on and racing out the door to get the car quickly enough so I said to him, “If you don’t want to take me, I’ll call 911.” 
He looked at me like I was an idiot.  (He does not suffer fools gladly.)  “Well,” he said, “I don’t think they come out for this type of thing.”  That statement made me mad and I told him I’d go wait in the car while he got ready.”  I figured if I was going end up with some big drama that made it necessary to call the paramedics, I didn’t want to be in a place where all my neighbors could watch.

He shortly appeared fully dressed, and carefully drove me to the ER, where I gratefully left my gall bladder and all its attendant stones and sludge.
So with any kind of luck I will not have to be one of those people who get carted off in front of everybody.  Like my sis, I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself.  However I do see now that in certain situations I may not feel that strongly about it.  But you can be sure that like my sister, if it happens at home, the afghan on the back of MY couch will be over my body just like my sister’s was.

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