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Front Porch: Encounter with paramedics puts moms’ warning to the test

Sat., Feb. 5, 2011

Mom didn’t tell us the truth.

You don’t need to have on clean underwear when the paramedics come. They couldn’t care less about the state of your tighty whities.

The story begins with my husband, Richard, and I taking a needed break in Seattle after Christmas. Just before we leave for home on New Year’s Eve, Richard painfully tweaks his back while loading our minivan and it plagues him all the way back here. While others frolic in zero temps at First Night, we unwind, read mail, console our miffed cat, and litter the bathroom counter with unpacked travel bottles. As his back is still hurting, Richard takes a muscle relaxer at bedtime.

The next morning I’m up first (a rarity) and am reading in the living room, when I hear a cascade of crashes and then a big thump. Dashing into our bathroom, I find my beloved laid out neatly on the floor, unconscious, and surrounded by travel toiletries. I shake his shoulder and he finally opens his eyes, unaware that he’s passed out. When we get him sitting up on the toilet, he passes out again, eyes open, shuddering. I begin to really freak.

“Quit doing that!” I command him, heart pounding.

No, what I actually say is, “I’m calling 911.” Thankfully, he doesn’t argue too much.

I’ve never called the paramedics before, and it’s a weird sensation. Fear is a marvelous stimulant, and it fuels impressive efficiency. In the few minutes before they arrive, I get dressed, splash my face, feed the cat, cram a muffin and book in my purse, unlock the front door, and stuff a bag with his clothes and coat. Unfortunately, I can do nothing for my poor husband, sprawled dazed across our bed, except not become a panicky twit.

Then the paramedics come. And come. And come. We can fit nine paramedics in our bedroom!

Of course, crises always happen when your hair is dirty and you look like a slob. They never happen when you look your best, and the house is tidy. I think it’s a law. And we fulfill it to the last jot and tittle.

There’s nothing like emergency vehicles in front of your house to get the attention of the neighbors, who express their concern. A dear lady I’ve not yet met offers to accompany me so I won’t be alone, but when I say a friend will meet me there, she says she’ll pray for us. We have great neighbors. 

All the medical personnel at our house and the hospital are terrific, professional and kind. After some tests, they let Richard go home, with instructions to see a cardiologist. So far the consensus is that the muscle relaxer didn’t friend his historically low blood pressure.

We’re filled with gratitude for our emergency services. It’s amazing to see them labor over your loved one, unfazed by two whiffy people in need of showers, suitcases on the floor, a nervous cat, or the patient sweating in ancient flannel pajamas. Like family should, emergency personnel take you as you are, and cheerfully, too. Their focus is solely on saving your life.

Richard later realizes, “Hey, our mothers were wrong! The paramedics didn’t check my underwear.”

Nonetheless, I think we’re going to do some shopping. Just in case.

Mom’s warnings have remarkable power.

You can reach Deborah Chan at Previous columns are available at columnists/.

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