Better late than never. Here’s the short story response to the song prompt “Live like You Were Dying:”
In the E.R.
by Fay Moore (c) 2012
She heads to the bathroom before checking in with the Emergency Room receptionist. She knows it will be a long time once she passes into the hospital labyrinth before they give her a bathroom break.
That done, she approaches registration to outline her symptoms: pain in her shoulder radiating down her right arm and up her neck toward her ear, pain in her jaw, and numbness in her fingertips and lips that comes and goes.
Yesterday she pitched 100 bales of hay off the back of the hay wagon and stacked them in the barn. Then she helped load firewood on the trailer to take home and stack for feeding the wood stove this coming winter. Did that behavior trigger her current state?
The day before that, she fell because her right leg didn’t lift as high as her brain thought it did. She caught it on a barrier fence in the garden. The catch of her foot in the fence sent her sprawling to the ground. Before stepping, she made a mental note to step high. But her foot didn’t do what her brain told it to do. Did she miss a warning signal?
The accumulation of symptoms finally drives her to visit her physician’s office for a consult. On hearing her symptoms, the medical office staffer turns her away at the front desk, directing her to go straight to the emergency room.
The hospital triage nurse prioritizes her as an emergency; she doesn’t have to wait in the waiting room. She is taken straight back, put in a hospital gown, hooked up to a cardiac monitor, and plopped into the bed in direct sight of the nursing station, curtain wide open.
A handsome doctor walks by. As a single girl, her eyebrows raise and eyes brighten, in anticipation of making eye contact with him. Her expectation is interrupted by an alarm buzzer. Her blood oxygen is low. The nurse bridles her with an oxygen hose up the nose. Now she prays the good-looking physician never comes back.
The hours grind by, marked by episodes of needle pokes by phlebotomists, body wrangling by technicians and claustrophobic rides into the MRI tube. Trapped on the uncomfortable cot, she thinks about all the possible outcomes.
Only a week ago, she had been ho-hum about life in a conversation with a girlfriend. Life’s tribulations had seemed so hard that having life end sounded peaceful. Now, she regrets those former thoughts. She sheepishly points her eyes heavenward and whispers, “I didn’t mean it. Really, I didn’t. May I take it back? Please?”
She decides that her misadventure today is a prompt to appreciate what she has. In fact, whatever life is throwing her way—outside of this damnable hospital visit—is looking good. More than good. Life looks great. She wants it, troubles and all.
In time, she gets the second chance she asked for. Her symptoms aren’t life-threatening after all. She has an impingement in her shoulder that is pinching a nerve bundle. Physical therapy will cure the problem.
As she leaves the hospital, she notices the birds singing. Funny. She never heard them on the way in.