Back to the N.C.E.R.

“You don’t know how lucky you are, boys…”

Dearest Rachel –

This morning, there was a bit of a change in plans. I had originally intended to walk to the ‘office,’ in order to get in my ten thousand steps (which is the subject of another letter I’ll have to owe you for later), but as I was beginning to prepare breakfast for myself, my phone – which I left in the bedroom to charge – rang out, and I wasn’t able to get to it in time.

It was my dad, calling from the emergency room at Northwest Community Hospital.

Now, it’s not like he hasn’t been there before. You were around for the worst of it, complete with a period of weighing whether or not to stay with me at his side, or travel down to Macomb to see to your mother. You split the difference on two successive weekends, as you recall all too well, only for her to pass on the weekend you didn’t go. I think you also were around for the occasional trip he had to make there in order to make adjustments to his leaking gastric tube. Apart from having to go there to have it attended to, even he considered this more of a nuisance than an actual emergency – except that he would need to eat in fairly short order (four times a day, in fact), and therefore needed it up and functional before his next scheduled feeding (I hesitate to dignify it by calling it a ‘mealtime’).

So for him to be in the emergency room isn’t entirely out of the ordinary. But this time around, the fact that he thought it necessary to call me and let me know gave me pause. Besides, this didn’t have anything to do with his gastric tube; these were some chest pains he’d been dealing with since the wee hours of the morning. Now, they may have been relatively inconsequential – after all, he’s the one calling, so he’s perfectly lucid, and in any event, I’ve been there myself these past few months – but as you know, he’s been through a lot these past three years, so anything could be happening here. And since I had nothing particularly pressing to deal with at the ‘office,’ I thought it would be best to walk to the hospital, rather than the ‘office,’ and visit him. Besides, I figured this would be a reasonably lengthy walk, allowing me to get those steps in.

It turns out that I’m either not a very good judge of distance, or my phone doesn’t count steps particularly well (and considering that Lars and I have gotten very different results when we walk together on the same path, I’m willing to go with the latter, but I’ve no idea what my true step count is in that case). You’ll recall my determination that the trip to the postbox by the pharmacy and back is a thousand steps? It seems that, much to my surprise, the one-way trip to the emergency room on foot is less than that; I could have sworn it would be much longer.

It also seems that I wasted the trip; not only am I all but ordered into a mask from the moment I pass through the automatic doors, but I am told that there can be no more than one visitor with any patient (and, of course, Mom is already there with Dad), and there is no provision for swapping out visitors. Thank God that Dad was stricken – and pulled through enough to come home – back in the year before Covid; we would never have been able to have been there to be by his side in the current environment, which appears to be an eternal situation in the health care industry going forward. I don’t like to think that either of the folks will have to go home with but one person by their side (to be fair, I don’t like to think about their homegoing at all, but I have to accept the reality that it will happen; if even the Queen, who was memetically immortal, can die, no one is safe), but that seems to be the reality of healthcare for the foreseeable future, despite the lifting of restrictions nearly everywhere else.

Upon being informed that I couldn’t see him, I told the fellow at the check-in desk to at least let them know that their son had been by, and headed out, depositing my mask in the waste bin immediately upon passing back through the automated door. After all, I now had a rather longer trip ahead of me, and I didn’t need to deal with anything impeding my ability to breathe along the way.

For what it’s worth, the trip was otherwise uneventful, zig-zagging through various residential subdivisions (the better to get as much arboreal cover as possible, as opposed to exposing myself to direct sunlight the whole way over). Ironically, as I got within two houses of the folks’ place, who should be driving past me and pulling into the driveway but Mom, with Dad in the passenger’s seat? They’d just gotten out a few minutes beforehand, and returned just in time to spare me fumbling with the house keys in order to let myself in.

Now, while they weren’t exactly a false alarm, any more than my issues were back in the spring, his aches and pains evidently had nothing to do with any major organs; they found nothing wrong with his heart, lungs, or anything else in the area of his complaint (and when he was telling me what had happened, he did seem to be indicating the opposite side of his chest from where his heart should be, anyway). The doctor explained that is was just a muscular issue, and a special dose of ibuprofen should suffice to deal with it. So all is relatively well; he still needs to grind the pill up, and send it through his gastric tube with a quantity of water, but it’s only a step or two more than any of us would deal with in a similar situation. At least everything’s resolved, and he’s doing okay.

Still, if you could keep an eye on him, and wish him luck, I’d appreciate it. He needs it more than I do right now.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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