I have a theory that the only reason married men stay alive is because their wives force them to eat healthy, exercise and visit the doctor when something appears to be wrong. A perfect example is my husband Bob, who last year was experiencing difficulty breathing. For two days he walked around complaining that he couldn’t draw a full breath of air. I suggested several times that he call our doctor and try to get an appointment. The problem is Bob hates going to the doctor so he kept saying, “let’s wait and see if it goes away.”
On the third day he realized that it wasn’t going away. He still couldn’t breathe properly. So of course he got dressed, took public transportation to work in downtown Washington DC and THEN decided to call the doctors office. At around 10 am he calls me on my cell phone, catching me just as I’m walking into a meeting.
“I called the doctor,” said Bob.
“The nurse said I need to go straight to the emergency room because I may be having a heart attack.”
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “You cannot go to the emergency room in DC, you’ll die for sure and I will never be able to find you.”
“I know,” said Bob. “And I’m afraid to ride home on the metro because last week someone died on the orange line and he rode around for eight hours before someone figured out he was dead.”
“What are we going to do?” I asked.
“Jim drove into the office today, so he’s going to take me home. Can you meet me there in about an hour? Then we’ll go to the emergency room together.”
This was Bob’s secret way of saying that there was no way in hell he was going to a hospital without me there to protect him. So I agreed to meet him at home in an hour. With that out of the way I walked into my meeting and told them I had a hard stop in 30 minutes. In retrospect, I may have been having a little trouble balancing my priorities.
One hour later I pulled into the driveway as Bob was walking into the house. “Let’s go,” I announced. “If you’re having a heart attack I think you need to be at the emergency room now.”
“Just wait a minute,” he replied. “I want to see what our deductible is for emergency room visits.”
“Really Bob? Really?”
“Well, maybe I can figure that out later. But I’m going to change into sweat pants. You always have to wait in the emergency room so I want to be comfortable.”
Well, he had a point there. Having raised three boys I have spent the equivalent of three years waiting in emergency rooms. We both changed into sweats and then grabbed a couple magazines and a book in case the wait was really, really long. As is pretty obvious by now, neither Bob nor I were too concerned about this whole heart attack thing. Quite frankly, he seemed to be perfectly fine except for the whole breathing issue. About 20 minutes later I drove us over to the hospital and we strolled into the emergency room.
“How can I help you?” asked the check-in nurse.
“Well, I’m having trouble taking a deep breath and my doctor said I should come to the emergency room in case I’m having a heart attack,” Bob said very calmly. Meanwhile, I’m looking around the room, counting people and trying to calculate how long we’ll have to wait. When I turned back to the nurse, she was gone. Just like that – poof! she had disappeared. Bob and I were staring at each other, quite bemused when the nurse, accompanied by two other orderlies came running through the automatic doorway and grabbed Bob. Throwing him into a wheel chair the nurse started barking orders and using the word “STAT” a lot. Bob looked at me from over his shoulder, wild-eyed with shock. I started running after the chair as they wheeled him into the emergency room. They looked like a blob of people with arms popping out every so often and Bob’s head poking up and down like a panicky turtle.
BAM! The orderlies grabbed Bob and slammed him on a gurney. SWISH! The curtain was pulled around us. CRACKLE! The nurse started tearing open plastic sealed tubing and needles. RRRIIIIPPP! Another nurse strapped on a blood pressure cuff to Bob’s arm.
I don’t think we’d actually been in the ER more than 4 minutes at this point. “What’s going on?” I asked.
“Your husband may be having a heart attack,” said the nurse. “We need to take his vital signs now!”
Apparently they did not like what they saw. Bob’s blood pressure was through the roof and his heart was pounding against his chest. Next came the needle nurse to start an IV. Bob and I were staring at each other in shock. Until that moment, I don’t think it had occurred to us that he might actually be having a heart attack. Monitors were wheeled in and little sticky nodes were attached to his chest. Just like in the movies, the screen began to show us the rhythm of Bob’s beating heart. And it was beating pretty fast.
A doctor came in to talk to us both. Thankfully, he was pretty calm about the whole thing. Sort of like Bob and I were BEFORE we came into the emergency room. He suspected that Bob’s blood pressure and rapid heartbeat had more to do with the drama of being in the emergency room than an actual heart attack. So he wanted to know how Bob felt about hospitals.
“I don’t like hospitals,” replied Bob.
“He hates hospitals,” I added.
“Well, I think that he may have pulled a muscle, which is why he can’t draw a deep breath,” said Dr. Wonderful. “And then he may have had a mild panic attack when he came to the hospital. But I want to monitor him for a little while just to be sure.”
I was so thankful that Bob wasn’t going to die that I got weak in the knees. “We’ll stay as long as you need us to stay,” I replied. “I brought books.”
Bob and I settled in to wait out his heart monitor. Slowly his blood pressure began to go down. Slowly his heart started to beat more normally. We had both completely forgotten about his inability to breathe deeply. He’d done enough deep breathing during the panic attack to confirm that was no longer an issue.
“Come over here,” asked Bob. He’d been staring at the monitor by his bed, watching the beats of his heart on the screen. “I need you to stand by the edge of the bed.”
So I walked over to the edge of the bed. “Do you need another pillow or something?” I asked.
“Nope,” replied Bob. And then he reached up and grabbed my breasts, one in each hand, all the while keeping his eyes glued to the heart monitor.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!” I whispered hysterically. “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND!”
“Be quiet, Kelly,” said Bob. “I want to see what happens.”
And there I stood, in the emergency room, with my husband grasping my breasts while he watched the monitor. Clearly all heart attack concerns were well past us both. “You’re an idiot,” I said. “I can’t believe that with everything that has happened in the last two hours, all you are worried about is my boobs.”
“Men aren’t complicated, Kelly. You know that.”
And I do know that – they are not that complicated at all. Despite everything we’d just gone through, all Bob wanted to do was play with a new electronic toy and grab some boob. And for the record, the monitor did perk up. Its nice to know that after 20 years together, we’ve still got a spark. But really, there has to be a better way to test it in the future.