The illness hit with alarming suddenness -- prolonged, violent shaking, imbalance, headache, dizziness, fever. It was too late for the doctor's office. "You're going to the emergency room," Sheila said. "I'm calling 911 for an ambulance."
"I'm perfectly OK!" I said, shaking and gasping. "Going to the hospital is ridiculous! I won't have it! I forbid it!"
The Fire Department and the EMTs responded immediately. They were efficient, professional and warmly supportive. They knew that at such times people are apprehensive, and they used just the right degree of casualness and humor to soften the edges. "These guys know what they're doing," I thought, and was reassured. To those firefighters and EMTs -- you are greatly appreciated.
Hobbes is our 17-year-old cat. That's 119 in cat years, and he did not like those big guys tromping through his house. He jumped onto the bed and refused to move out of their way; an 8-pound cat holding off all those men. I was impressed.
They put me on a gurney, down the stairs, out the door and into the ambulance. Hobbes followed. A firemen caught him and put him back in the house.
"That was easy," the fireman said. "I once had to climb a 30-foot light pole to rescue a lady's cat."
Sheila followed the ambulance.
Like the EMTs, the hospital staff worked its professional magic. From intake to discharge was all efficiency softened by caring concern. There was no wasted time or motion. An I.V. was poked in my arm, blood drawn, temperature taken, blood pressure and respiration checked. A technician trundled in a large machine and pointed it at my chest. "Smile," he said, and took an X-ray.
A doctor examined me, asked questions, poked here and there. A second doctor repeated it and went to confer with the first. Another technician pasted EKG electrodes on me. Three nurses were in and out, efficient, professional, cheery, observant. It was like a choreographed ballet, impressive and beautiful in its efficiency, professionalism and compassion.
After six hours of testing and observation, the doctors gave their diagnosis. The nurse shot me full of antibiotics, went over a list of instructions and sent us home. Our thanks go to everyone on that marvelous staff.
"Where's the car?" I asked Sheila, as we left the hospital.
"There," she pointed, proudly. "Right across the street. A really good spot. I was lucky no one had already taken it."
"That's good," I said appreciatively. It was raining, cold and I wasn't feeling up to a long walk on dark city streets at 2:30 a.m.
A parking ticket, soggy from the rain, was tucked under the windshield wiper. A sign with big red letters was next to the car: "NO PARKING!" it said.
Sheila stared at the ticket. "Think of it," she said, "as the price for an exclusive parking space."
Sheila drove us home while I sat there holding the wet ticket.
The worst part, before finally going to bed, was tearing off a dozen thick pieces of tape that must have been secured with construction-grade adhesive, the kind that holds buildings together. With reverberating ripping sounds, great islands of chest hair were torn out.
The best part is that Hobbes was happy to see us.
When one thinks of Buffalo we should appreciate all of the good things this city offers -- like the 911 service, the wonderful EMTs, Fire Department crews and the medical staff at Buffalo General. Thank you, all of you. You are much appreciated.