If the first trip to the ER in Atlanta was harrowing and depressing, the second trip restored my faith in humanity. Oh, it was still harrowing and there was plenty to be depressed about, but I had a friend with me on the second trip and that made all the difference. (First half of this two-part post here; more on how I got here in the first place, here. )
So there it was, Saturday morning. I’m in my hotel room, and nothing good is going to happen. After agonizing deliberation (because I didn’t want to make a fuss, be dramatic, or admit defeat) I called my friend and colleague, Marlene.
A word about Marlene.
You know the feeling you get at Thanksgiving dinner when all the casserole dishes have been put out and your mom has finally taken off her apron and is sitting down for Pete’s sake; when everyone has wine and rolls, and the turkey’s out and the gravy pitcher is already making the rounds; that moment when everyone raises their glasses to toast and the kids are toasting with juice or milk and you’re just overwhelmed with love and gratitude because people are generally good and the world is spinning at the correct speed for once? That feeling? That is Marlene. She is the embodiment of the Thanksgiving toast. She is everything that is good.
She’s also a successful businesswoman at the helm of a national network of convention center-sized quilt shows — including Quilting LIVE!, the show that had taken me to Atlanta. Tools Marlene carries at any given time might include: a laptop, bluetooth headset, box cutter, first-aid kit, talent contracts, cash box, dinner reservations and a little gift she got you, just because. As you can see, Marlene is a good person to call when you’re slightly dying.
Marlene arrived in lightning speed and helped me down to the car. Her husband was waiting right outside. (Don’t get me started on Stan; if Marlene is the Thanksgiving toast, Stan is like, birthday cake the day before your birthday.)
Here are excerpts from conversations that morning at the hospital. These are pretty much verbatim and all illustrate the need for an advocate at the hospital — preferably Marlene:
Conversation No. 1
NURSE: (to me) What do you do, hon?
ME: (weakly) I’m a…quilter. Writer.
MARLENE: This young lady is a national television star. She’s a magazine editor, an author, and an expert quilter here for the quilt show in town this weekend. She’s a dear part of our team and we care about her very much. We’d like to see the doctor. Now.
NURSE: Uh, yes, right away!
Conversation No. 2
ME: (feebly, to NURSE.) Please… The pain medicine. Please, when you —
MARLENE: (to NURSE.) I’ve asked you three times for lidocaine and pain medicine. If I have to ask again, I will not be very nice. Thank you, we appreciate it.
Conversation No. 3
NURSE: Okay, here’s that pain medicine. This should help.
ME: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
MARLENE: Now we’re getting somewhere. (to ME.) I’ll go down and get the prescriptions, hon, you just sit back and let that take effect. That’s the good stuff.
The help with the nurses, the coordination to help cover my show duties that morning, and of course the ride to the hospital — all that was beautiful. But perhaps the best thing Marlene did for me was when I lay on the bed in the exam room, twitching and gnashing my teeth. She stood above me and smoothed my hair, stroked it softly as we waited for the doctor. That simple, compassionate action did more for me than the Dilaudid, I swear.
“I miss my cat!” she laughed. “You’re my cat right now, Mar.” And she made me laugh, and I felt better. And then, ever thinking, my advocate said, “Does this bother you? Do you want me to stop?”
And I said, “No, no. Please. It’s wonderful.”