I left the Doctor’s office and began to walk towards my car – parked a block away but it felt like it was a mile. I knew I needed to tell something to my two older sons just to let them know I was going to the hospital just to get checked. “Don’t tell Grandma” was what I stressed. I did not want to get her all worked up and nervous.
After what felt like 40 years walking in the desert (or is it dessert? Oh yeah Desserts spelled backwards is stressed, so it is desert) I reached my car. I sat down and started the engine with a push of the button. Put my head against the steering wheel and said a quick prayer.
Driving on Ocean Parkway I was kind of in a mental tornado – no clear thoughts just thousands of voices? Silent screams? Maybe it was quiet and that is something my brain was not used to. I turned onto Avenue S to pick up my wife from the Center and she took over the wheel and control.
We got to Maimonides and I went to the ER while she went to park the car. I told the receptionist I was feeling chest pains. I was brought into speak with the admission’s lady who took my information and gave me a baby aspirin.
I was lost in thoughts – the taste brought me back to east 14th street where I lived until I was around 8 years old. A kitchen with a separate beaded area where my brother, Maurice slept. Outside the kitchen a rotary phone on the wall, beneath it a couch and beside that a small table with a record player and stereo. My mother putting her cheek against my cheek to see if I had fever and then a kiss on the forehead.
“Put this under your tongue.” Admissions lady tells me thrusting a thermometer with a condom in my mouth.
A wheelchair is brought to me and I tell her I could walk.
“You may be able to walk but you aint walking right now. Sit down.”
She pushes me into the emergency room, I promptly see an older man sitting on a wheelchair pulling a Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct pose, an old lady holding an even older doll in her arms and asking for milk, a man on a gurney handcuffed to the metal bar and a Spanish dude sleeping off his hangover. Finally I get to my destination which as it turns out, was the exact space where my father was when he was admitted last year.
Jessica walks in and sees me wearing a gown and calls me “Jack Nicholson” from the movie, Somethings Gotta Give. I smile and threaten to show her the Sharon Stone dude.
We sit there and are taken care of pretty efficiently although asked the same questions over and over again can and does get kind of frustrating. But I was kind of numb. I knew that something really intense was about to happen to me and all those voices inside my head were still silent.
My niece, Julie, who works at Maimonides, came by to see me. Truly a sight for sore eyes if there ever was one. Not just for me but for Jessica as well. They were speaking while I sat there, eyes closed and trying to sleep.
Time for a chest x-ray…
Time to take some blood…
What happened to you? Why are you here? Any history of…
Finally I was taken for my Angiogram. They wheeled me as Jessica followed us – I gave her my phone and she gave me her kiss. I began to get scared, really scared.
They rolled me into this room that was probably 33 degrees. The Doctors and Nurses were truly warm and attentive to me. They kept telling me that I was too young to be there and I told the pretty nurses that they were too young to be there. When I am nervous I talk a lot. The began to poke me searching for a vein or whatever. I asked them to give me something to knock me out because I didn’t want to be awake. I don’t remember what happened – all I know is the Doctor told me that there were blockages.
“Is it because I am fat?” My first question. Did I do this to myself? The pretty Asian nurse smiled and said.
“First of all you aren’t fat, you could lose some weight but you are far from fat. Second, we had someone here the other day with the same issue who is skinny like a toothpick, athletic and a vegetarian. So no you did not do this to yourself. It doesn’t help, but its not the main cause.”
“Thank you, now who can I blame for this?” I asked.
“If I was you I would be thankful that you are going to be fixed before anything bad happened.” The Doctor said.
“So whats the verdict?” I asked.
“We are going to show the results to your Doctor and he will make the call. In the meantime let’s get you out of here so you can thaw.”
They pushed me on the gurney into a waiting area. I waited there and I saw my wife and niece walking towards me with my Doctor.
“We need to operate on you – there are at least two blockages…” He kept speaking, calmly explaining to us what I could not hear. I felt like he was one of the adults in the Peanuts cartoons or possibly speaking Klingon.
The next thing I know they rolled me into what seemed like the house where the kid from “Willy Wonka” lived with all his grandparents in bed. Me being the little kid in a room full of senior citizens. The only difference being the Golden ticket I was waiting for was word from my Doctor about when, how, where and by whom I would be operated on. The room looked like it was decorated in 1971 – big windows, curtains to surround each bed, nurses, orderlies and doctors all scrambling around doing their jobs.
I wont name names here because I do not want to put people in the spotlight without their knowledge. I will say I texted a friend who’s husband was operated at Maimonides and I knew was very involved. I then texted her cousin, another good friend of mine to make sure she got the message. Within five minutes I received responses from both.
By now my mother and my family was aware of my situation. I was hoping they didn’t tell my father anything but I also knew he would figure it out just the same. They all came to visit me as I sit there with an open gown awaiting my fate. My Doctor who had sent me to the hospital and effectively saved my life with his knowledge and insight, walked into the room. He came to the hospital just to see me to see how I was holding up. He then showed my wife and myself the results of the angiogram.
“You need to have heart surgery. Now you are young, we have the best cardiology department here and the best surgeons.” He showed us the pictures from the tests and described it for us – I watched and listened and heard and saw nothing. My cell phone rang and it was my friend who’s husband was operated on.
“I need to have open heart surgery.” My mouth spat out as my mind was silent.
“Tell your Doctor you want Dr. Israel Jacobowitz. He is the best there is.” Right at that moment my Doctor said two names of surgeons and one of them was Dr. Jacobowitz.
“OK I will contact him now.” Before I knew it he was there. He was all booked the next day and had plans for the weekend so he would operate on Monday. They would keep me in the hospital over the weekend to monitor me.
I don’t remember anything about that night in the hospital. They gave me something to sleep and I slept. I woke up and the first thing I remember is seeing Dr. Jacobowitz telling me he would operate that morning. I quickly texted my family.
(To be Continued)