Four bands, ER and me: I fainted. I blacked out. I got up, felt pain on the last bone of my spinal cord.
An extraordinary sunday
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - February 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Last Sunday I woke up early, washed my face, went to the breakfast table, drank my pills and played computer solitaire to kill half an hour before breakfast. I began to get a little dizzy but it quickly passed. Maybe I was playing too much solitaire. My husband came to join me for breakfast. Finally I got up to get ready for church.

Then I remembered that I wanted to make some cheese spread. I went out to talk to Leizl, our housekeeper. I was talking to her when I felt myself blacking out. According to her, I said, “I’m getting dizzy.” Then I turned very pale and fell flat in a seated position, my head upright against the wall. I became aware of Liezl screaming, “Ma’am, Ma’am, wake up.” She was rubbing my heart. She also called “Sir,” who didn’t quite understand her. He got a plastic stool from the bathroom and sat beside me asking, “What happened? What happened?”

 “I fainted,” I said. “I blacked out.” I got up, felt pain on the last bone of my spinal cord. I got escorted to bed. My husband ordered Liezl to take my blood pressure. It was 198/105. This is what I get for not taking my maintenance pills. I took two of them and asked for an ice bag to put under my right hip, which hurt like hell. About an hour later my husband made me take my blood pressure again — 198/115. I asked him to call his doctor friend who sort of panicked when he heard my blood pressure. “Take her to the emergency room of the hospital,” he said. “She might be having a stroke or a heart attack.”

That’s how I landed at the Cardinal Santos Emergency Room (ER). That explains the mint green band on my arm in the photo. At least five doctors and nurses asked what I was allergic to. “Aspirin,” I said. “What happens when you take it?” they all asked. “I get hives,” I said. That explains the red band they put on my arm.

 They attached me to a blood pressure monitor that beeped every 15 minutes but later wasn’t too accurate anyway. Just like our monitor at home. I think it’s off by 15 on diastolic and 25 on systolic but nobody seems to care.

 I complained of a terrible pain in my right hip. Intensity eight on a scale of 10. They asked me if I have a cardiologist. I have one who told me to visit every six months. I did that thrice. That was three years ago. “Is it Reggie Encabo?” the young doctor asked. Yes, I remembered his name! Then they asked if I had an ortho. No, I don’t have one. “You want Dr. Europa?” they asked. “Is he good? Then okay.” You think this happened quickly? It took around three hours.

 I arrived at the hospital with my husband, Loy, who I could sense was close to panic, and Liezl for the first hour. Then my son Gino appeared. He was in the neighborhood, dropped everything he had planned on doing and came to the hospital to be with his mom. We sent Loy and Liezl home to rest.

 Eventually Dr. Encabo came and talked me into having an MRI. I knew it would be expensive but he said it was necessary to see if I was having a stroke or a heart attack. I agreed. Two men, followed by my son, wheeled my ER bed out onto busy corridors and finally we reached a long, curving, roofed catwalk. It had rails, trees and buildings by the side. It went up and then it went down until we finally reached the MRI building at street level. These rides — going to MRI then returning to ER — were the picturesque points of that Sunday.

 Imagine how you would feel if you lived in a tiny place whose window was at street level of a street that was being undone. That’s what it feels like to be in an MRI. They play all manner of obnoxious noises around your ears. You are so relieved to be out of there. I think the yellow tag I got was for my MRI. The results? I was not having a stroke or a heart attack. I will not have a gout test. I don’t have gout. Not even a cholesterol test because I will not stop eating fat. And I will not have any surgery either.

 I arrived at the ER at 1:30 p.m. I got to my private room at 8:30 p.m. That’s the white tag on the photograph of my wrist. I was grateful for the IV that killed the pain on my right hip and meeting Dr. Europa at last. Not for anything he did but for what he said: “I knew you were 75 so I expected to see an old woman, but instead I saw you.”

 For that little thing, I am forever grateful.

* * *

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EXTRAORDINARY SUNDAY
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