If this turns out to be a piece of sentimental drivel (♪…people who need people…), you have my permission to take the pistol out of my glove compartment (♪♪…are the luckiest people…) – the pistol I bought for people who wait until they get to the drive-up window to fill out their deposit slips – and use that pistol on me. (♪… in the world.) Because everyone knows this about me: I don’t do sentimental drivel.
I also don’t ordinarily spend three nights in a hospital with absolutely no memory of what put me there, and a diagnosis of a temporary but serious medical condition that is fatal 45% of the time. But that’s what happened to me a couple weeks ago.
Quick summary: Carole came home and found me on the floor, unconscious; I was taken in an ambulance to ER, diagnosed with a urinary tract infection that went into my blood stream and became septic; and I then experienced brief AFib while in hospital. They fixed everything, and I was released after three days. I’m now fully recovered.
I didn’t die. I didn’t even get to the part where I was walking toward a bright light.
All that medical stuff is not what’s important here. What’s important is the fact that the Barbra Streisand “People” song is now embedded in my head, perhaps for the rest of my life. How did that happen?
My first memory is in the emergency room. Doctors and nurses and machines and tubes, all moving around, over and into me. People were asking me questions, questions I couldn’t answer because I had no idea what had happened or where I was. And I could barely put syllables together to make words, much less words to make sentences. Amidst all this chaos, the one thing I knew was that all this was not real: it was a dream. And I was going to wake up, realize I’d had a bad dream, and be very relieved. What told me it was a dream was the fact that Carole was not in the room. If I were really in the ER, Carole would be there, too. No Carole, no reality. Simple as that.
Of course, it was not a dream. They wouldn’t allow Carole to come in. She – and our neighbor, one of the two friends who arrived before the paramedics – were in the waiting room, while the doctors worked to stabilize me. When they finally let her come in, that’s when I knew it wasn’t a dream. She brought reality in with her.
Another memorable part of my hospitalization was the roommate I had for one night. They brought him in late the second night, and he left the next afternoon. I never met him – the curtains were closed – but from hearing his voice, I imagined him to be 50 or 60-something. As the nurse completed his check-out procedure, she asked who was picking him up. Nobody, he said. He’d call Uber.
That got my attention. He had just spent a night in the hospital, and there was nobody in his life to come pick him up. I felt very fortunate. I not only had a person, I had people in my life. That’s when Barbra began singing.
What I learned from all of this is something I already knew, but rarely thought about. And that is how much I – we – take for granted. Carole and I know that if one or both of us have a problem, we first of all have each other. And then we have other people and resources around us who will help us get through whatever. I had phone calls and e-mails and text messages and cards from people concerned about my health. Most of our friends know that they, too, are surrounded by people who are ready to help.
People. Family. Friends. Neighbors. They all – we all – would drop whatever they’re doing to help a friend, neighbor, family member, even a stranger. Most of us won’t need to call Uber to get home from the hospital.
People. People who need people. Are the luckiest people in the world.
Okay, sorry. You have my permission. The gun’s in the glove compartment, passenger side, black Toyota Avalon.