Saturday, March 27, 2010

better late than never

Thursday started a little early.

My alarm is set for 7 a.m. on weekdays, giving me a full hour to get ready for work. That morning, however, I woke up to noise from my Dad's room at 6:30. It didn't take me long to figure out that Dad was on the phone, something that's definitely unusual for that time of the day. It was also out-of-character to hear him actually talking so much.

I could hear my step-mother, too, but it didn't sound right.

I heard someone go downstairs and return quite quickly, something else that doesn't happen with them. They're in their 70s and slow movements are the name of the game.

I got out of bed, opened my door and asked what was up.

Dotty couldn't breathe. Dad had called for an ambulance.

I asked if there was anything I could do; Dad wanted me to go wait by the door for the ambulance, which I did.

Dotty was taking very shallow breaths and was understandably anxious and slightly panicky.

I could hear the sirens, apparently from miles away. It was a few minutes until the paramedics arrived. Their names were Christine and John.

Christine asked all the medical history questions. Had this come on suddenly or gradually? (Suddenly) Had she been coughing? (Dotty always coughs - she's an ex-smoker with COPD.) Was anything coming up when she coughed? (Yes, and you don't want to know.)

John and Christine got Dotty on oxygen and got her out of the house and into the very brisk morning air. The ambulance stayed in the driveway for another five minutes or so before leaving.

Dad got ready to follow. He left within another 15 minutes. I told him I'd stay behind in case he needed me to do anything. Besides, going to work and trying to train a class not knowing what was happening was out of the question. I would have been much too distracted. I called my manager and explained.

And then I sat at the computer and killed time, my cellphone beside me. It was a complicated period of time: Dotty and I don't really get along, though we are mostly friendly with one another. Most people know I don't really like her. Whenever this kind of crisis takes place, however, I become very anxious.

This is the third time since 2006 that I haven't known if she would survive her body's weakness. She's both the toughest person I know and the most frail. Her own purse is too heavy for her most of the time, yet she's survived several heart attacks (2009), her heart and breathing have stopped more than once (also 2009), her heart has functioned abnormally for a prolonged period of time (2006), and she even had a bad bout with pneumonia last year.

Dad came home just over an hour later, which worried me. Why wasn't he waiting at the hospital?

Seeing his face, though, I knew Dotty was okay.

The hospital suspected pneumonia again, he explained. They would be running some tests and doing x-rays all morning so he came home for a nap.

Fair enough.

I messaged my manager: I'd be in before lunch was over. I was going to snooze, too. I felt very sleepy, despite being up for just a few hours.

I made it to work and I made it through my final workout for the week, too. It went very well, actually.

Pneumonia has been confirmed and Dotty has stabilized quite a lot, Dad says. I haven't visited her, yet, though I'll get there today. She'll likely be home early next week, according to her doctor.

And I'm looking forward to a weekend with no Couch to 5k and no 'wicked' step-mother.

Oh. I even have beer.

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