Not too long ago, there were times when I played a competitive game of tennis in the heat of Chicago summers and felt so out of breath that I could picture my imminent death. However, that didn’t stop me from running the net or reaching for that overhead shot. Times sure have changed. Now I sneeze and wonder if I’ll make it!
I must have heard this expression a million times, “You’re never too old to learn.” Really? In a different life I could be a grandmother and you’re telling me I’m not too old to learn ballet, or play the saxophone or be a cheerleader? Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for having no desire to learn any of those, but I think the phrase is lacking the word the ‘something’ at the end. Indeed you learn something every day and last week I did. Trust me, this learning wasn’t easy at all and it sent me away with too much homework.
Sooner, or later, we all reach an age where we can’t afford to ignore a chest pain. In fact, our priorities change drastically: We decide high heel shoes are exclusively for special occasions, no-iron tableware is as good as cotton – if not better, and the fiber content of food turns into the most important nutritional fact. The list goes on and if you happen to choose a nice nap over dancing in the rain, you’ll understand what I mean.
So last week, when I felt a dull pain that could be related to my heart, I took my doctor’s advice and called 911. It couldn’t have taken more than three minutes for the paramedics and half the fire department to show at my door. This being my first experience, I knew there would be a lesson and began to take mental notes. Here are some of what I have learned after spending an entire day in ER and spending the night in the hospital:
In order to benefit from a call to 911, you need to be in a good enough shape to get up and walk to the front door and unlock it, and if not, you better arrange to collapse somewhere near it.
* If you’re young, be sure to dress up and apply some makeup because these guys are all young and good looking.
* Tie your jealous dog first or once he sees six uniformed guys are trying to take you away, he’ll do his best to get rid of them, including nonstop barking, attacking them with his sharp teeth and peeing on their shoes.
* Call a friend or a neighbor to guard the house because the firemen will ask for your keys to lock the front door, but closing the windows, checking the running bath or turning the alarm on is not in their protocol.
* When they ask you questions, don’t lie about your age or your weight. The guy’s last request will be to hand him your driver’s license and as soon as you’re in the emergency room, you’ll be placed on a bed that is equipped with an accurate scale.
* The ambulance ride is the best part, but be prepared that there may be no constant siren. Seeing your neighborhood upside down is fun and soon you begin to guess the rout by the shape of its trees. We rode at the speed of lightning, went right through what must have been red lights. I smiled inwards at the vision of passing all the drivers who’d given me the finger on the day before.
* You will discover that medicine has changed. Not long ago, the cute ER nurse would ask questions such as, “Are you pregnant?” or, “Are you sexually active?” and end it with, “Give us your best emergency contact,” to indicate that she thinks you have a long list of people waiting to rush to your aid. The questions have sure changed because now they want to know, “Do you use a walker at home?” or, “Are you wearing any dentures or hearing aids?” or, “Do you require a pastor?” And my personal favorite, “Have you had thoughts of suicide?” to which I just had to respond, “Yes, actually I was attempting suicide when I felt a mild chest pain and thought better check that first!”
Indeed the incident has taught me valuable lessons. This is probably the best ride you’ll ever be taken on and for me it were as if I went to Lego Land– though the nearly twenty thousand price tag is a tad higher! The ride goes by too fast and the memory can’t be vivid. So if you happen to call 911, be sure to taking your camera!
Zohreh Ghahremani is the author of Sky of Red Poppies, winner of One Book, One San Diego 2012