Monday, May 28, 2012

Ambulance

     Last week, I had to call 911 for the first time in all my many Marfan-related adventures with my husband. He called me at work, said he couldn't really control the left side of his body and would I take him to the emergency room when I got home? He was kind of slurry with his speech and even though I knew immediately what that meant, I didn't get scared and I actually didn't call for help right away. In fact, he called or texted me three more times between the initial phone call and when I decided to call an ambulance. What does that mean, that neither of us called for the medical professionals and instead debated back and forth over whether we should go to the ER or to the urgent care? It means a lot of things, I'm sure, and that's something I plan to dive into in the next couple of posts. But first, let's set the scene, shall we?

     I was working until 5:30 last Tuesday and my husband was at home, him being currently unemployed and all. He'd recently started taking his daily dose of blood thinners again, after having received the steroid injection in his spine the preceding Friday. There had been no complications up until then and even though he'd been without his warfarin for a week, my husband said he was feeling fine. My phone rang at about 4:30, an hour or so before I was to go home, and that's when he told me that he'd been sitting at the computer when all of a sudden he couldn't control the left side of his body. When he realized what was happening, he tried to make his way upstairs to the couch to lie down, but it took forever and day because half his body wouldn't cooperate.

     Now, his pain-management doctor had warned my husband before he ever went off the blood thinners that doing so could potentially lead to clotting and a subsequent stroke. It was a calculated risk, one that seemed both necessary and unlikely to cause bad things to happen. Yeah, about that. Apparently, my husband's blood thickened up like whoah and a tiny clot made its way to his brain, momentarily pausing the blood flow and causing a tiny stroke. We wouldn't learn all this until a couple of hours later, however, when the little Irish doctor in the trauma section of the ER filled us in.

     I'm a smart girl and I've have several relatives suffer strokes, so I knew what the symptoms were. When my husband called me and told me what was going on, it wasn't difficult to put two and two together and come up with the likely answer. I still wasn't freaked, though, because he was talking to me and texted me over the next hour that he was starting to regain control of his limbs. This was encouraging and I figured I would just run him by the ER when I got off work and he could chill on the couch until then. This plan was initially my husband's suggestion, by the way, not mine.

     Once 5:30 rolled around, I gathered my things and decided to make a call to my mother on the way home. Never mind the fact that I'm twenty-seven years old and married - my first instinct is still to call my mother when something weird happens. I did so as I was walking to my car and asked her to tell me what the symptoms of a stroke were. Of course she rattled off everything that my husband had just described to me, because why the hell wouldn't we be dealing with a neurological event? She, of course, wanted to know what was going on, because that's not really the kind of question you just call somebody out of the blue and ask. I told her that her son-in-law had, in all likelihood, just suffered a stroke and I was on my way home to pick him up and take him to the emergency room. That bit of news did not sit well with her.

     I had just hung up with her and called my husband to say I was on the way, put your shoes on when my call-waiting went off. Unsurprisingly, it was my mother, who had taken all of thirty seconds to decide that I needed to call 911 NOW. I was on the highway, sitting in traffic at this point, so after a couple of, "Really? You think?" and " YES! Call for a goddamn ambulance NOW!" back-and-forths, I told her I would and called my husband back to inform him that he would shortly be hearing sirens and that they were coming for him. He immediately tried to talk me out of it, finally resorting to, "Please?" in his saddest voice. I had no choice but to pull out my Put-Yourself-In-My-Shoes card, which effectively won the argument.

     I called 911 while stuck in traffic and when the operator answered, I asked them to please send help to my house, as my husband was alone and I believed he'd just suffered a stroke. The dispatcher was very nice and reassured me several times that help was on the way. Even then, making that call and saying out loud what had happened, I was completely calm. I didn't speed to get home, I didn't bob and weave through traffic to try and get to my exit faster; I just got off the highway when it was time and continued on my merry way. In retrospect, it was kind of the weirdest damn thing, but that's an entry for another day.

     My husband and I live half a block from the police station and fire house, so I knew full well that the emergency personnel would beat me to there. Sure enough, when I turned onto our street, I saw a cop car blocking my driveway, a firetruck with the lights flashing and an ambulance with the lights on and the back doors standing open. I parked the car on the street and hopped out to find my husband strapped to a stretcher in the middle of our front yard, an EMT asking him to count backwards from one hundred. I asked the nearest one who didn't appear to be occupied if they were taking him to the hospital and if so, which one. I was told that yes, my husband absolutely had to go to the hospital and he'd go to Barnes, which has a level 1 trauma unit.

     I guess they were satisfied that he was okay to move, because the EMTs started loading my husband into the back of the ambulance for the short trip to the hospital. I was asked if I wanted to ride with him, but I declined and told them I would follow them in my car instead. After all, how the hell else was I going to get home after all was said and done? As they shut the doors on the ambulance, I turned and thanked the officer standing behind me. Then I grabbed the mail, went into the house and fed the cats, even though their bowls weren't empty, because I knew it was going to be a long damn night in the hospital. Unfortunately, my suspicions were confirmed a short time later, once I got to the emergency room.

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